Feminism in the Play “Trifles” by Susan Glaspell

Pages: 5
Words: 1388


Despite being written at the beginning of the 20th century, the play “Trifles” still presents an important source and obligatory to read for people interested in feminism. It was created by an American playwright and journalist, Susan Glaspell, in 1916, and the author conducted pioneer research on the topic of women’s rights and possibilities. In the play, the author addresses a variety of themes, and the social oppression of women is one, which is covered especially comprehensively. Describing women of that time in the play, their lifestyle, and relationships with their husbands, Susan Glaspell presents a unique approach to this topic. She highlights that restrictions imposed by men not only regard the division of labor, but also genitively affect different aspects of women’s life.

Historical Background

First of all, before analyzing “Trifles”, it is essential to outline the historical context of the play and some aspects of the author’s biography. At the beginning of the twentieth century, feminist ideas and intentions were widely discussed among the broad public, as women were eager to adhere to equality in society (Ben-Zvi 50). During this period, which is called First-Wave Feminist, activists were determined to elaborate practical steps that will lead to the attainment of legal rights. Supporters of this movement expressed their objections and requirements via marches and protests. This event of social life had a considerable impact on literary tendencies as well (Arcinieg 46).

Consequently, “Trifles” appears to be the response to current ideas in society and changing of mass worldview (Ben-Zvi 34). Sharing feminist objectives and program, Susan Glaspell discusses the problem of inequality in her play.

Susan Glaspell was concerned about the position of women in society, and her activity is an example of how a woman can realize themselves without a man. As for the life of the author, she had conservative parents, who imposed her particular gender standards (Ben-Zvi). However, when Susan Glaspell became an adolescent, she stuck to the current tendencies, which implied changing attitudes to women and their roles in society (Ben-Zvi).

She entered Drake University, which was unhabitual for women at that time (“Trifles by Susan Glaspell, a D’moiselles Production in NYC”). Moreover, when she was eighteen, she worked as a journalist for a local newspaper, and after graduation, the author started her reporter career. Susan Glaspell resented the conviction that the only trajectory of life for women was marrying a man, and, for this reason, she earned money for living herself (Arcinieg 48). Therefore, “Trifles” is an expression of her resentment to the social pattern, which becomes obsolete and restricted women from living fully.

Women and Social Oppression

Oppression of women regarded their lifestyle and defined their daily activity. In the play, the author shows the world, where all the leading positions and roles are occupied by men. Hence, women were significantly restricted in their activity, and they were out of particular social expectations, such as the necessity only to do household chores and be dependent on a husband. Women were not allowed to control and express their identity.

In “Trifles”, men behave in the way described earlier, limiting women’s roles. For instance, George Henderson, an attorney, and Henry Peters, sheriff, treat Minnie Wright disrespectfully (“Trifles by Susan Glaspell, a D’moiselles Production in NYC”). They highlight that she should focus on performing household chores and caring for children, ignoring the fact that she may have a desire to realize herself in other occupations. In addition, they find it normal to judge her drawbacks and her mistakes in this regard.

Another illustrative example is the characters Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters, as their names were chosen by the author intentionally. In order to understand the attitude to Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters, it should be mentioned that they are the main characters of the play. Susan Glaspell aims to emphasize that they are indemnified only for their husbands, and their personality is not taken into consideration to such an extent that their names are not mentioned (Bazregarzade).

Minnie Wright is the only female character in the play, whose first name is introduced and used by others. However, her name reflects that her marriage led to losing herself (“Trifles by Susan Glaspell, a D’moiselles Production in NYC”). The woman has to spend all her time alone at home, even being isolated from her children (“Trifles by Susan Glaspell, a D’moiselles Production in NYC”). It should be highlighted that it is not a singular event, and such a lifestyle was widespread among women during that period. On the contrary, men have the possibility to communicate with others as much as they want. Comparing the positions of women and men, the author draws attention to inequality and dishonesty, which was admitted in society.

The oppression of women becomes even more considerable during the play. Reflecting on the popular feminist ideas, Susan Glaspell presents a view that social oppression of women is not limited by labor division, and it covers a great number of aspects of life.

As well as limiting the lifestyle of women, men’s attitude to women restricted their intentions, bonds, character, and development in general. Women did not have a possibility to reveal their intelligence, as it was commonly belittled by men, as they did not even think that women may cope with deep intelligent problems. Women were allowed to do household chores and caring for children, and this presented the matter men laughed at (“Trifles by Susan Glaspell, a D’moiselles Production in NYC”). They blamed women for their naivety and simplicity, though they did not realize that their behavior led to such a reality.

In addition, the conditions, which were imposed on women, affect their mental state. As well as Minnie Wright, Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters present some reflections on the issue of isolation during the play. For instance, Mrs. Peters describes that she was frightened to stay alone when her husband was away and her only child died (“Trifles by Susan Glaspell, a D’moiselles Production in NYC”). Furthermore, having several children, Mrs. Hale mentions that she finds it dreadful being alone in the house.

As for Minnie, one of the reasons, why she committed the crime, was her loneliness and isolation. The character reminds that the whole her lifestyle changes when she married her husband (“Trifles by Susan Glaspell, a D’moiselles Production in NYC”). Instead of happiness and love, she had to spend the majority of her time in an empty house, which is “down in hollow” (“Trifles by Susan Glaspell, a D’moiselles Production in NYC” 10:38).

She even could not see the road from her window. Minnie did not socialize with other people, and she did not have children. Consequently, loneliness drives her to murder, which made her relieved (“Trifles by Susan Glaspell, a D’moiselles Production in NYC”). Thus, it is evident that oppression and restrictions imposed by the men altered the mind of the character in a negative way and made her commit the crime.

Therefore, Susan Glaspell highlights the harm of social oppression of women in numerous ways throughout “Trifles”. The fact that the female characters realize the consequence of their lifestyle and their husband’s impact reflects the author’s position in this regard. At the beginning of “Trifles”, women show no resentment to the current traditions of men’s dominance in their lives and perceive it as something evident and habitual. However, their opinion is changing during the play, and they realize the dread of such a lifestyle (“Trifles by Susan Glaspell, a D’moiselles Production in NYC”). The same happened to the author, who had conservative parents and an appropriate upbringing (Bazregarzade). Being a teenager, she acknowledged that this belief appeared to be obsolete and destructive for women in many ways.


In conclusion, it could be noted that Susan Glaspell conveys her opinion on women’s oppression throughout the whole play and the behavior of different characters. Even details, such as a name of a character or a brief dialogue, reveal her position. The author demonstrates that men’s dominance not only affects the activity of women, but also limits their traits of character, talents, bonds, and development. In addition, they impose on women such living conditions, which are impossible to live happily in and lead to multiple physiological problems and poor mental health. Thus, the author is convinced that the social oppression of women should be overcome.

Works Cited

Arcinieg, Lourdes. Home as an Activist and Feminist Stage: Women’s Performative Agency in the Drama of Susan Glaspell. In: Klein E., Mobley J. S., Stevenson J. (eds) Performing Dream Homes. Palgrave Macmillan, 2019.

Bazregarzadeh, Elmira. “Susan Glaspell’s “Trifles” in the Light of Ecofeminism.” Kata, 2019. Web.

Ben-Zvi, Linda. Susan Glaspell: Her Life and Times. Oxford University Press, 2007.

Trifles by Susan Glaspell, a D’moiselles Production in NYC.YouTube, uploaded by Concrete Timbre & D’moiselles. 2013. Web.