The Use of Setting in a Play

The Use of Setting in a Play

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In all literary works, authors are required to provide the reader with the setting of the story. Setting is the context in which the action of a story occurs. The major elements of setting are time, place, and social environment. The author's tone of voice and use of vocabulary can also help the reader understand the setting of a story or play. In the play, "Trifles" by Susan Glaspell, symbolism, use of vocabulary, and dialogue help the reader develop an understanding of the circumstances leading up to he situation. She uses these methods to also help the reader visualize where the story is taken place.

The year is 1916. Women did not have many rights and were expected to stay at home and tend to their husband's needs. John Wright was in control of everything and did not allow his wife to have much of a social life. Before the play opens up, Glaspell sets the scene for the audience. "In the abandoned farmhouse of John Wright, a gloomy kitchen, and left without having been put in order, -..." (p.1006). The description given at the beginning of the play, establishes an atmosphere that will influence our judgment of Mrs. Wright. The gloomy, unkempt kitchen allows one to envision the uninviting place where Mrs. Wright spent her time. It is later mentioned that John Wright was a "hard man" and never showed too much expression. Glaspell's choices of words, "signs of incomplete work," suggest that there may have been problems within the marriage.

Dialogue is another way in which Glaspell establishes setting. Through conversation between characters, we can also develop an understanding of the situation. For example, the sheriff states, ."..I knew you could get back from Omaha by today..." (p.1001). His statement suggests that the story takes place somewhere in the Mid West, where winters can be cold and desolate. Further into the conversation between the Sheriff and the attorney, we also find out that John Wright has been murdered and that his wife has been arrested for the crime. The dialogue between the characters is important because it allows the reader to build up suspense and understand the mood of the story.

Lastly, Glaspell uses symbolism to characterize Mrs. Wright. Her use of symbolism can be used to understand what may have caused Mrs. Wright to murder her husband. For example, the Wrights' neighbors, Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters are at the scene of the crime.

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They discover an empty birdcage and a dead bird wrapped neatly in a decorative box. Before Mrs. Wright got married, she was Minnie Foster. Minnie Foster was pretty, took care of herself, and loved to sing. ."..come to think of it, she was kind of like a bird herself- real sweet and pretty, but kind of timid and fluttery. How she-did change."(p.1006) Mr. Wright put a stop to Mrs. Wright's social life. He could not tolerate having an entertainer for a wife. All of Minnie Foster's dreams were killed when she got married. Mrs. Wright was like the caged bird. The dead bird symbolizes her murdering her husband to break free from his controlling ways.

In conclusion, setting is a very important element when reading any literary work. Without setting, the reader will not be able to develop an understanding of the literature. Once the setting is established, the reader can then proceed to understand dialogue, symbolism and mood.

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