The play ?Trifles?, by Susan Glaspell , is an examination of the different levels of early 1900?s mid-western farming society?s attitudes towards women and equality. The obvious theme in this story is men discounting women?s intelligence and their ability to play a man?s role, as detectives, in the story. A less apparent theme is the empathy the women in the plot find for each other. Looking at the play from this perspective we see a distinct set of characters, a plot, and a final act of sacrifice.
The three main characters, Mrs. Peters, the Sheriff?s wife, Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Wright are all products of an oppressive society which denies them their right to think and speak freely, in the case of Mrs. Peters and Mrs. Hale, and denies them their right to a happy, free life as in Mrs. Wright?s case. Throughout the play Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters are able to find clues to the motive for the murder from their detailed knowledge of simple housewifery of which the men are ignorant. They also are forced to find an empathy for Mrs. Wright as they compare their own experiences to the clues they discover of her life. In the end this empathy causes them to make a decision which also casts them into the underdog?s lot of women fighting for their freedom in the early part of our century.
At the opening of the play we find the two women not taking a very active part in the play. In fact, they seem a little disconcerted to be on the scene of a murder, their only words as they stand by cold door on a cold night is ?I?m not ? cold.?(1170) The women do not start to take an active role in the story until the county attorney finds the broken preserves jars in the cabinets. ...
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... bird and hiding it from the men to save Mrs. Wright. The unity the ladies have found with each other and Mrs. Wright is stated by Mrs. Hale in the final line of the play. ?We call it ? knot it, Mr. Henderson.?(1179) This has a double meaning, one that the ladies were united by their common bond of living in a male controlled world, where men think women are only good for such activities as quilting and housework. Second, that the women are united by their common bond of fighting for each other. Her reference to knotting the quilt can also be construed as a reference to knotting Mr. Wright?s neck. This final retaliatory remark shows the determination of women in that era to fight for equal rights and sisterhood, no matter what the moral cost.
Glaspell, Susan. "Trifles" The Bedford Introduction to Literature. Bedford/St.Martins: Boston 2005.
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