Essay on Is 'Trifles' a Feminist Play

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Feminist criticism is concerned with 'how literature reinforces or undermines the economic, political, social, and psychological oppression of women'(Tyson). This school of theory looks at how our culture is inherently patriarchal and struggles to reveal males' biased writing against women. Therefore, many women rose to fight a patriarchal society that gave roles to each of its members. The main roles: are political, productive, social, and reproductive. Women were only briefly part of the social role and were mainly given the reproductive role which confined them to raising children and taking care of their households and husbands. Susan Glaspell, a writer in the early twentieth century, lived in that time. As a result, most of Glaspell's‟ drama criticizes society‟ 's restricting view of women. This is shown through her play“Trifles.” Glaspell adds distinct details to the play that allow it to sympathize and speak up for women. A feminist analysis of Glaspell's‟s 'Trifles' highlights thoroughly details through the title, the characters, the roles, the conflict, and the theme. To begin with, in any literary work, the title helps reinforce the theme and understand the text better. In Trifles, the title suggests that the play talks about insignificant and superficial themes or actions. However, the truth is far from that. Once the reader begins reading the play, he/she is impressed with the turn of events. In the play, the two women – Mrs. Peters and Mrs. Hale- who are only brought along with the sheriff and attorney to retrieve some items for a wife – Mrs.Wright/ Minnie Foster- accused of killing her husband – Mr. Wright, are the ones who find the evidence to indict the accused. In Trifles, the title is ironic as the reader sees what is silly, and 'trifle' to men, as the key to solving the murder.

There are two main female characters in “Trifles.” They are Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters. They come to a farmhouse to gather some things for Mrs. Wright. Mrs.Hale is her neighbor and the wife of Mr. Hale who discovers Mr. Wright‟s body. Mrs. Peters is the sheriff‟s wife. While the rest of the characters have an actual role in the play, Mr. and Mrs. Wright, who is the main focus of the play, are only referred to through the dialogue of the other characters. The story starts with the entering of the county attorney, sheriff, and Mr. Hale along with Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peter into the Wrights‟s messy farmhouse kitchen. Mr. Hale reports that the day before, he has entered the Wrights‟s house and seen Mrs. Wright sitting down in a rocking chair looking distant. He asks for Mr. Wright but she tells him he is dead. After that, they go up to the bedroom, the scene of the crime, leaving Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters. They start to gather things for Mrs. Wright and through their conversation they question whether or not Mrs. Wright could have killed her husband. They discover a slain canary and a broken birdcage that could prove Mrs. Wright‟ 's guilt.

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They cleverly conclude that because cold Mr. Wright has killed the cheerful bird, Mrs. Wright has her revenge by consequently choking her husband. Feminists, while reading a literary text, search for the roles and characteristics of women. They believe that 'women cannot be simply depicted and classified as either angels or demons ... brainless housewives or eccentric spinsters. Such characterizations must be continually identified and then challenged' (Bressler,183). In a general look at Trifles, a reader can figure out right away the roles given to women in that era. Women's roles were mainly reproductive and briefly social. These rules place a woman in the kitchen; expecting her to cook, bake, do housework, and take good care of her husband. Moreover, women's roles are determined by their husbands. That is why women – except for Minnie Foster- don't get the first names throughout the play. Mrs. Peters, who is married to the sheriff, is viewed in this term, not as an independent woman. The county attorney says 'a sheriff's wife is married to the law' (Glaspell 10). Mrs. Peters herself tries to fulfill that role saying 'Mrs. Hale, the law is the law' (Glaspell 5).

There are many conflicts in “Trifles.” The main conflict is shown through Mrs. Hale's description of Mr. Wright. Mrs. Hale says, “He was a hard man Mrs. Peters. Just to pass the time of day with him (Shivers.) Like a raw wind that gets to the bone” (Glaspell 8). On the other hand, Mrs. Wright before her marriage was a very cheerful person. This is the reason why only this woman is given her first name in the play. Minnie was lively and independent before her marriage. She is fed up with the oppression Mr. Wright imposes on her and tries to retrieve her rights. As a result, her husband tries to kill her spirit and that results in a domestic conflict between spouses. As discussed in The Mad Woman in The Attic 'her battle is not against her precursor's reading of the world, but against his reading of her'(Gilbert and Gubar:1929). Another conflict is whether or not Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters should show the evidence to the men. They have to choose between doing the „right‟ lawful thing or staying loyal to their fellow woman. Also, the men‟'s degrading view towards women causes another conflict. All of these conflicts create so much tension that brings the action, despite its representation through the conversation of two women, to elevated heights. The setting and dialogue are also important details in Trifles. 

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Essay on Is ‘Trifles’ a Feminist Play. (2024, May 16). Edubirdie. Retrieved July 23, 2024, from
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