|Type of paper:||Essay|
Many plays stress the traditional understanding of gender roles specifically the roles of women. Susan Glaspell's Trifles is one such play. In the play, Susan shows how women are always required to be at home and how their contributions are often disregarded and unappreciated. The title of the play sums up women's shortcomings as their concerns are seen as mere trifles. The issues they raise are not important as the real issues and agendas are those of men since they are the ones who are engaged in real work. The play also portrays how people often seek the truth, how they interpret it, and how they value it. This essay seeks to analyze Susan Glaspell's Trifles using paraphrases and actual quotes from the play.
The play queries the value of women and men's perspectives. For example, in the crime scene, Mr. Wright is found dead, and the wife is accused of killing him. This unfortunate event attracts many people of different genders. However, the different genders are seen to provide opposing views in an attempt to understand the motives of the accused widow. However, the views of the men are seen to be taken more seriously while those of the women are not. This can be seen when the county attorney asks Hale to give his account of the events but only asks the women about Mrs. Wright's bird when he states, "Well ladies, have you decided whether she was going to quilt it or knot it?"
When Hale tells his account, the different behaviors that are expected of men and women because of their gender roles are also emphasized. According to him, he had gone to visit Mr. Wright, the victim, in an attempt to convince him to set up a telephone. He then says "but I thought maybe if I went to the house and talked about it before his wife, though I said to Harry that I didn't know as what his wife wanted to make much difference to John - ." Here, one can see that Hale had planned to position himself in front of the victim's wife hoping that she would convince him to install the telephone. This presumption is stereotypical since women are seen to touch a soft side of men, which they use to try to convince men to do something. It also conforms to gender roles whereby men are seen as tough while women are seen as pleasant.
The significance of gender roles is also shown in the play After Mr. Hale had called the authorities and a crowd had gathered at the crime scene, the men and women in the crowd have different reasons for gathering there. The men are there because they want to live up to their obligation as the community's law professionals. On the other hand, the women are simply there to see if they can gather any personal effects and take them to Mrs. Wright, who is now imprisoned. For example, when the county attorney enters the kitchen and notes the mess on a shelf where Mrs. Wright's frozen fruit jars were, he says, "well, can you beat the women! Held for murder and worrying about her preserves." To this, Hale says, "women are used to worrying over trifles." As the attorney continues to survey the kitchen, he makes comments on the little things that women concern themselves with. However, the two women in the room stand up for Mrs. Wright because they understand the importance of her little things. From this, it is evident that the county attorney and Hale view their discussions as important and they find no significance in the little things that the women care for.
The men may undermine the things that the women take seriously. However, the women tend to notice important details that can help solve the murder. For instance, the women notice that Mrs. Wright had made bread. This is an important detail, which shows she was doing something before the incident. Nonetheless, they wonder if she killed her husband, but Mrs. Hale is convinced that she did not because she is worried that the trifles men associate them with can be used against her. Furthermore, Mrs. Hale can see that the ordinary household duties Mrs. Wright was doing before the incident do not show signs of extreme emotion or sudden anger. All these are details, which the men dismiss because they believe the issues women discuss are petty. As the men move around the crime scene, the women in the room are concerned with the way the men continue to criticize Mrs. Wright's housekeeping skills without any regard for the fact that she is currently held in custody and that she did not have time to tidy up.
The lack of seriousness with which the men take the small things that the women are concerned with is also evident in the play. For example, as the women are taking Mrs. Wright's quilt, they discover a bird covered using a silk cloth. Mrs. Hale, jumping up, says, "But Mrs. Peters - look at it! It's neck! Look at its neck! It's all - another side too." It is here that Mrs. Peters also notes that the bird's neck is wrung. As they wonder whether Mrs. Wright wanted to quilt the bird or tie it, the county attorney does not seem to pay much attention to the women's concerns. However, what he does not realize is that this trifle reveals very important evidence. The bird's neck must have been strangled forcefully, and this reveals a motive for Mrs. Wright to have killed her husband. The bird was the last thing that she loved, and once her husband killed it, she must have decided not to take her husband's abuse anymore and killed him. The women's revelation not only helps them understand the crime but also helps them decide how to act on the knowledge. Hence, when the attorney asks if the women had found out what she was going to do with the bird, Mrs. Peters replies "We think she was going to - knot it." This response is metaphorical since it reflects the crime. The county attorney then enquires if it had flown, but then Mrs. Hale says they think the cat caught it. After the attorney questions the whereabouts of the cat, only Mrs. Peters answers back and says, "Well, not now. They're superstitious, you know. They leave." The response is also another metaphor for the cat, in this case, is Mr. Wright.
In the end, Mrs. Peters tells the women a short story that shows she understands why Mrs. Wright chose to kill her husband after he killed her small bird. Having understood the story, the women felt powerful and given that as wives their husbands had devalued them, they chose to remain quiet about the murder. Furthermore, since the men did not expect the women to make any valuable contributions, they are convinced that Mrs. Wright killed her husband even though they cannot prove it.
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