Susan Glaspell’s play Trifles (1916) is based on the real-life criminal story about the woman accused of killing her husband. In spite of the fact that the play is constructed as the detective story, the main play’s idea is in presenting the realities of the American society in the early part of the 20th century. In her provocative play, Glaspell discusses the story of analyzing the murder of Mr. Wright from the female and male points of view.
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Thus, John Wright was killed at night, and now it is necessary to conclude whether Mrs. Wright killed her husband or the farmer was killed by the other person (Glaspell 982-983). In this play, Mrs. Peters and Mrs. Hale, as well as Mrs. Wright who is never presented on stage, can be discussed as the main female characters because their actions change the story’s ending.
Although women in Trifles combine their efforts to protect Mrs. Wright, the female characters depicted in the play can be discussed as hopeless because these women are ruled by the desire to state their social position among men; furthermore, Mrs. Wright has to kill her husband in order to protect herself in the patriarchal society; and the female characters have to hide the evidence in order to oppose the social injustice in relation to the issue of gender and distribution of social roles.
Despite the fact that Mrs. Peters and Mrs. Hale are portrayed in the play as rather decisive women, these females are hopeless due to the years of experiencing discrimination in their families and in the society. Mrs. Peters and Mrs. Hale are portrayed as suffering from many disparaging discussions of their positions and roles in the society. Thus, discussing the female roles and thoughts, the men depicted in the play state that “women are used to worrying over trifles” (Glaspell 982).
The audience can guess that now Mrs. Peters and Mrs. Hale are rather hopeless, and their actions are caused only by one desire which is to emphasize their unique social position among men. The women’s role in the American society of the early part of the 1900s is shaped only by social conventions, and this situation makes hopeless women find different, even risky ways to change the situation.
The female characters presented in Trifles are hopeless because the unjust situation observed in the American society makes them focus on any ways to cope with the situation. Thus, Mrs. Wright can kill her husband because of the impossibility to overcome the obstacles of living in the traditional American society where men can be discussed as the only dominated force.
Referring to this detail, it is possible to discuss the play Trifles as the “realistic portrait of women’s lives in patriarchal society” (Goodman 191). Therefore, Mrs. Peters and Mrs. Hale are inclined to sympathize with Mrs. Wright and understand her act because each of them knows the details of living in the society dominated by men.
As a result, the female characters’ hopelessness even makes them violate the traditional principles of morality and hide the evidence which can be used against Mrs. Wright who is discussed as the murder of her husband. From this point, the female characters represented in the play are hopeless, but they are rather strong. It is important to pay attention to the fact that Ben-Zvi states in her work: “Women killing somebody else, especially when that somebody is male, has fascinated criminologists, lawyers, psychologists, and writers.
Fascinated and frightened them” (Ben-Zvi 141). Focusing on Ben-Zvi’s statement, it is important to note that hopelessness experienced by many women in the patriarchal society affected their dramatic choices to accentuate their power.
Focusing on finding the evidence to state Mrs. Wright’s guilt, the female characters concentrate on a lot of features and details which make them think that the marriage of Mr. and Mrs. Wright was not happy, and Mrs. Wright had many reasons to kill her husband (Glaspell 983). Thus, it is possible to assume that Mrs. Wright lost her hope for the better future in relation to her family life.
In spite of the fact that the audience can hope that Mrs. Wright is able to avoid being accused of her husband’s murder, many female characters presented in Susan Glaspell’s play Trifles should be discussed as hopeless because of their impossibility to change the social situation for better.
That is why, hopelessness can be considered as the main explanation to the female characters’ judgment of Mrs. Wright’s behavior and to their women’s further focus on hiding the evidence. Those women who are depicted in the play can also be discussed as ruled by their anxiety in relation to such ‘trifles’ as their social position.
From this point, the idea of hopelessness serves as the effective explanation to the discussion of the women’s actions described in the play. In this case, the story of Mrs. Wright’s choice is rather typical for the patriarchal society of the early 1900s.
Ben-Zvi, Linda. “‘Murder, She Wrote’: The Genesis of Susan Glaspell’s “Trifles”. Theatre Journal 44.2 (1992): 141–162. Print.
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Glaspell, Susan. Trifles. Web.
Goodman, Lizbeth. Literature and Gender. USA: Routledge, 2013. Print.