Human beings not only live in the physical world but also survive in the emotional world. Frequently, one's emotional world actually controls the actions one commits in the physical world. Perception plays an enormous part in what one feels is important and what one feels is unimportant. Is there a difference between perception of men and women? In Susan Glaspell's story Trifles, she examines the difference of perception between men and women in a unique way by revealing these differences in the solving of a murder case. The difference between what the men and women perceive to be important pieces of evidence is astonishing. Glaspell uses symbols as interpreted by the different genders to help explore these perceptual divergences for the reader.
Introduction of the characters occurs as the play opens so they are all privy to the same information and have an opportunity to discuss the investigation. The characters themselves are symbols. George Henderson, who is the county attorney, is perceived to be very intelligent and will be able to convict Mrs. Wright of the murder of her husband. Henry Peters, the sheriff, is not as well educated as the county attorney but desires to uphold the law. Lewis Hale, a neighboring farmer, is the person who discovers Mr. Wright's body. Mr. Wright who is dead, is the symbol that allows the play to evolve. These are the men of the play. Mrs. Peters, who is the sheriff's wife, has come to the Wright's home with Mrs. Hale to retrieve some personal items for Mrs. Wright, who is in jail. Mrs. Hale, the wife of Mr. Hale and neighbor to the Wrights, has come to gather Mrs. Wright's possessions to take back to the jail. Mrs. Peters...
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..., "'My, it's a good thing the men couldn't hear us. Wouldn't they just laugh! Getting all stirred up over a little thing like a-dead canary. As if that could have anything to do with-with-wouldn't they laugh!'" (1180).
Glaspell not only exposes how the characters have different perspectives but she also makes the reader realize the differences between male and female perception in the play. The play is about perception, and what is actually important is not the death of Mr. Wright but the life of Mrs. Wright. Truly, perception is different not only for men and women but also for each individual person, for it determines one's ability to perceive the truth and to achieve happiness.
Glaspell, Susan. Trifles. The Bedford Introduction to Literature: Reading, Thinking, Writing. 5th ed. Ed. Michael Meyer. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 1999. 1172-1181.
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