Susan Glaspell's Trifles can be regarded as a work of feminist literature. The play depicts the life of a woman who has been suppressed, oppressed, and subjugated by a patronizing, patriarchal husband. Mrs. Wright is eventually driven to kill her "hard" (1178) husband who has stifled every last twitch of her identity. Trifles dramatizes the hypocrisy and ingrained discrimination of male-dominated society while simultaneously speaking to the dangers for women who succumb to such hierarchies. Because Mrs. Wright follows the role mapped by her husband and is directed by society's patriarchal expectations, her identity is lost somewhere along the way. However, Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters quietly insist on preserving their own identities by protecting Mrs. Wright from the men who seek to convict her of murder.
Mrs. Wright is described as someone who used to have a flair for life. Her neighbor, Mrs. Hale, comments that the last time Mrs. Wright appeared happy and vivacious was before she was married or, more important, when she was Minnie Foster and not Mrs. Wright. Mrs. Hale laments, "I heard she used to wear pretty clothes and be lively, when she was Minnie Foster, one of the town girls singing in the choir" (1176). But after thirty years of marriage, Mrs. Wright is now worried about her canned preserves freezing and being without an apron while she is in jail. This subservient image was so accepted in society that Mrs. Peters, the sheriff's wife, speculates that Mrs. Wright must want her apron in order to "feel more natural" (1176). Any other roles would be considered uncharacteristic.
This wifely role is predicated on the supposition that women have no abili...
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...lso becomes complicit in keeping information from her husband and other men. She too--owing to the loss of her first child--understands what loss means and what Mrs. Hale means when she says that women "all go through the same things" (1180).
The women in Trifles cannot, as the play reveals, be trifled with. Although Glaspell wrote the play close to eighty years ago, it continues to be relevant to contemporary relationships between men and women because its essentially feminist perspective provides a convincing case for the necessity of women to move beyond destructive stereotypes and oppressive assumptions in order to be true to their own significant--not trifling--experiences.
Glaspell, Susan. Trifles. Making Literature Matter: An Anthology for Readers and Writers. Ed. John Schilb and John Clifford. Boston: Bedford / St. Martin's, 2000.
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