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A Play “Trifles” by Susan Glaspell Critical Essay

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Updated: Jul 9th, 2020

Written by Susan Glaspell, Trifles is a play, based on a true occurrence in Iowa. The author focuses on the development of the both the minor and major characters. Through the development of the characters, Glaspell vividly describes their stereotypes.

In Glaspell’s play, Minnie Wright exhibits the role of a round character. During her youth days, she is always a happy, cheerful, and social songstress. Additionally, her wardrobe consists of bright colored clothes that made her outstanding among other girls. Unfortunately, after Mr. Wright married her, she drastically changed her behavior. Mrs. Hale describes her as “sweet, pretty, timid and fluttery but all the characters disappeared after marriage” (Glaspell Para. 5).

On the other hand, Minnie’s husband is tyrannical, abrasive, domineering and aweless, a fact that Minnie respects during her thirty years of marriage. However, from the blues, Mr. Wright dies or killed at night depending on one’s perspective. Surprisingly, Minnie confesses that someone strangled her husband without her noticing. Unfortunately, the Sheriff and the attorney disapprove her claims and choose to imprison her as the prime suspect. After critical investigations, the law convicts her of murder.

Minnie has a dynamic character that makes her to adapt to the prevailing situation. Although she is submissive to her husband, she turns a murderer after tolerating her husband’s unbecoming behavior. One moment of rage and bitterness from her husband is enough to kill him and this ability o change depending on the prevailing situation underscores roundness in character development.

John Wright is a powerful, rough and crude husband; he turns his cheerful wife to a sad and antisocial woman. However, one day his wife strangles him with a rope killing him instantly. The roundness in Mr. Wright’s character comes out clearly given the fact that at one point he is strong, abrasive and ‘masculine’ but she dies in the hands of one considered weak. Therefore, in essence, Mr. Wright changes from a strong character to a weak one and this defines the roundness of his character.

On the other hand, George Henderson; the county attorney, represents one of the flat characters; characters who remain rigid throughout a story; no change of thought or persona. During the murder of Mr. Wright, he comes to the scene to carry out an investigation. He is a tough and bully but dismisses the kitchen as a source of evidence of the murder. Ironically, he concentrates in the bedroom and barn places which belong to men.

Although he convicts Mrs. Wright as the murder, he is unable to discover solid evidences apparently evident in the kitchen. His character is stagnant he neither changes his behavior nor listens to women. Similarly, Henry Peters is a Sheriff who accompanies the attorney in the murder investigation.

However, just like Henry, he overlooks some of the important places that might give evidence about the murder case. Additionally, his contemptuous nature comes into limelight when he kicks some items in the house disapproving them as source of evidence. He concentrates in the bedroom to search for evidence and his rigidness passes him for a flat character.

There is a high degree of gender and culture stereotyping in the play. Mr. Wright follows the society culture of being domineering especially to women. The role of women is in the kitchen and they are not supposed to talk before men. Mrs. Wright ends up losing her happiness and cheerful nature because she is a submissive woman. On the other hand, the sheriff and attorney do not involve the women in the murder cases.

They dismiss a woman’s place like the kitchen and concentrate in the bedroom. Similarly, Clarkson observes that women like Mrs. Hale remain silent when they discover the box-containing evidence because the society demands such of them (286). In summary, Mr. and Mrs. Wright are the round characters in the play; their characters are dynamic hence changes depending on the situation at Hand. On the other hand, the flat characters include the law enforcers and Mr. Hale.

Works Cited

Clarkson, Suzy. “Silent Justice in a Different Key: Glaspell’s Trifles.” The MidwestQuarterly 44.6 (2003): 282-290.

Glaspell, Susan. Trifles, N.d. Web.

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