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Representation of Violence in Trifles and A History of Violence: Critical Analysis

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Throughout the many stories we read and the few movies we’ve watched this semester, there have been forms of violence in every one. I found that in most of the stories we read, men have been the offender of this violence. There have been some female offenders, but I’ve noticed that the reasoning of their violence is due to the actions of men in their life. The violent actions of the men offenders in these storylines are usually not justified, with the exception of one (in my opinion).

Starting with women offenders, the play “Trifles,” by Susan Glaspell depicts a murder scene. John Wright was found dead in his bed, strangled by a rope. There are a few people at the scene of the crime; attorney Henderson, Sheriff Peters, and Lewis Hale - the neighbor who found John Wright dead. Peters’ wife and Hale’s wife also accompany the men at the house. When Lewis entered Minnie and John’s home, Minnie was sitting calmly in her rocking chair. When Lewis asked where John was she answered by saying that he was dead in their bedroom. When Minnie was asked about the murder, she said that she did not wake up or hear anything while her husband was being strangled. Minnie Wright is arrested for her husband’s murder and held in a cell. The men look around Wright’s house looking for evidence, but they instead insult Minnie’s housekeeping. They comment on her dirty kitchen. Minnie asks the women to check on her jars of fruit because she does not want them to freeze. Minnie also requests that women bring her an apron and clothes to the cell for her. While the women are gathering Minnie’s items, they notice a quilt that she was knitting. They notice that her stitching was off and not good. They wonder if it is because she was upset. The women also find a box and the box they find a dead canary bird with its neck broken. When they enter the same room as the women, they hide the box and do not say anything. The women put two and two together and realize that John killed the bird which made Minnie kill him. She was at her final breaking point and finally snapped. The women comment on how Minnie used to be such a lively woman and how she had changed for the worse after marrying John. They mention that John was a stone-cold man who was probably difficult to deal with alone. They understand why Minnie killed him and do not tell their husbands.

The story takes place in1900, which is why we never learn anything about the wives. We see how the men brush them off and do not take them seriously. The men do not ask for their help in the actual murder, but they ask simple favors of the women. This is ironic because it is the wives who solve the murder and keep it from the men. The murder in this story is rare for two reasons: the offender was a woman and the murder is justified.

A History of Violence is a movie that right off the bat shows a ruthless murder scene. In this opening scene, we see two men at a motel. The older man goes to check out and then comes back to his car. Next, the younger man goes into the checkout area to fill his water and we see him walking past a woman’s dead body. He steps over her without even flinching and goes over to the water station. He hears a little girl crying, it was the daughter of the woman who was killed. The younger man tells her to turn around and once she turns around, the man shoots her. In the first six minutes, two unnecessary murders were commit and had no reason. Tom Stall is a father in a small town who owns a diner. Two murders enter his diner and threaten to kill everyone in there. Without hesitation, Tom throws hot coffee on one of the men, grabs the gun and kills both men. Tom is seen and praised as a hero, and he hates the attention. A man named Carl Fogarty confronts Tom saying he is a man named Joey Cusack from Philadelphia. Tom tells the man he is mistaken and asks him to leave. Fogarty and his men stalk the family and eventually tells them the truth about Tom’s past. Tom and Fogarty end up fighting in Tom’s front yard and Fogarty goes to kill Tom when Tom’s son shoots Fogarty and kills him. Tom gets kidnapped and brought to Philadelphia and sees his brother who is the head of the mobster gang he was once a part of. When Tom gets to his house he is attacked by his brother and other mobsters. Tom manages to kill them all and escape.

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The story contains a lot of gruesome murders, some that were justified and some that were not. The first two murders of the maid and her daughter were uncalled for and inexcusable. The murders in the diner were justified because Tom was saving himself and the patrons of the diner from being killed. The three murders of the mobsters were also justified, in my opinion. Tom moved to this small town and changed his name to have a fresh start from murder and violence. Tom killing the mobsters was self-defense. If Tom did not kill these men, he would’ve been killed by them or brought back to the mobster lifestyle, which he did not want at all. In both “Trifles” and “A History of Violence,” we see justified murders. In the play, we see a murder committed by a woman and then in the movie, we see murder committed by multiple men. In the next story, we read about violence performed by both the man and the woman characters.

“The Yellow Wallpaper” is a story about a wife and her husband. The wife is the narrator of the story and the husband’s name is John who is a physician. John diagnoses his wife with a nervous mental illness. He takes her to an estate away from their home and forbids her from doing any type of stimulating activity. She enjoys writing but John does not allow it, so she sneaks it. I believe John does not allow her to write because it gives her a voice of her own and somewhere to express her thoughts. While they are living in this estate, she and John live in a bedroom with bars on the windows, a bed that is bolted to the floor, rings on the walls, and yellow wallpaper. The narrator hates the room, especially the wallpaper. She claims it is smelly and unclean. She describes the pattern on the wallpaper and says that “when you follow the lame uncertain curves for a little distance they suddenly commit suicide - plunge off at outrageous angles, destroy themselves in unheard of contradictions,” (Stetson, 648). While she is living in this room, we see her getting more and more unstable. She starts to see women in the wall. She rips and tears off the wallpaper to try and get the women out. She even bites a part of the wooden bed off to try and reach the wallpaper that is covered by the bed. She goes so far and says that if anybody comes close and tries to touch the wallpaper, she will kill them. After peeling the wallpaper and never reaching the woman, she says “I am getting angry enough to do something desperate. To jump out of the window would be admirable exercise, but the bars are too strong even to try,” (Stetson, 656). We see the narrator get so angry over this wallpaper she is willing to kill anyone who touches it. She gets so frustrated, she thinks about killing herself, but she knows she can’t. We see violent thoughts in the narrator and even violent actions while she rips at the wall and bites the bed.

Though John’s actions are not as obvious, they are still violent in a way. He convinced his wife she had a mental illness, then isolated her in an estate and forbid her from doing any activities she enjoyed. He forgot about her, or else he would have noticed how her condition had worsened. I find that it is John who drove his wife to become crazy. By isolating her and not letting her leave the estate when she asked so many times, he allowed her illness to get worse. I do not believe his actions were justified. He had no right to diagnose his wife and then force her to leave her home.

The stories we read in class all showed violence in different forms, but in specific we see murder stories. I noticed a significant difference in the murders committed by the men and then committed by the woman in “Trifles.” In the play, the wife slipped a rope around her husband’s neck while he was asleep. After she committed the murder, she sat calmly in her rocking chair. She was composed and didn’t make a mess (there was no blood splattered anywhere and the murder was “simple). The murder was in response to the intolerable actions of the husband. In the movie, “A History of Violence,” the men’s murders, there was blood, fistfights, kidnapping, etc. The murders were ruthless and extremely violent. The murders were not based on anything except for the history of the former mobster and his mobster family. In the last story, “The Yellow Wallpaper,” the actions of the narrator are in response to her husband’s wrongful treatment of her.

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Representation of Violence in Trifles and A History of Violence: Critical Analysis. (2022, March 18). Edubirdie. Retrieved March 5, 2024, from
“Representation of Violence in Trifles and A History of Violence: Critical Analysis.” Edubirdie, 18 Mar. 2022,
Representation of Violence in Trifles and A History of Violence: Critical Analysis. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 5 Mar. 2024].
Representation of Violence in Trifles and A History of Violence: Critical Analysis [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Mar 18 [cited 2024 Mar 5]. Available from:
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