The Play “Trifles” by Susan Glaspell
The play “Trifles” by Susan Glaspell appears to center on the murder mystery but the reality of the world that people live in goes much deeper. Even though the horror of the scene and the house is worsened by the preceding events, the true despair and disturbance are observed in the lives of people, the conditions they create for each other and the separation that exists between people, due to their hunger for power, life’s unequal circumstances and personal uncertainties. Characters begin apart and end in further division (Glaspell, 3).
From the very beginning, the play sets the mood for a much different story, as the distance between characters and themes become obvious. The first sign of destruction and breakdown of emotions, the psychological state of people is the visit to the house where a murder has been committed.
The sheriff, Henry Peter and an attorney, George Henderson, investigate the murder while women who have come with them are staying by the door, not wanting to take another step in. After an invitation to get warm by the fire, Mrs. Peters says: “[After taking a step forward.] I’m not—cold” (Glaspell, 1). The emotional separation between people is seen through Mrs. Wright and how she is wildly nonreactive to the surroundings.
There are many major themes that are predominant, and most important ones are the separation between men and women according to class and role in society, the mental break down and the misunderstanding nature of the two genders. The first symbol of women refusing to come in any further shows that the law and business matters are attributed to men and women do not want to participate; they want to stay away from such matters.
The way Mrs. Hale feels sorry for Mrs. Wright shows that women in such harsh society understand each other and take steps to support and come up with their worlds that are separate from men’s unfair treatment. This can also be seen when men start to put Mrs. Wright down, in saying that she is a poor homemaker and cannot keep her kitchen tidy and neat.
Women resent that and respond by saying that this is the result of a deeper problem, as Mr. Wright was behaving in such a way that locked his wife away from the world. The sensitive nature and understanding that women have shown how the problem has spread everywhere where men and women have become distant (Silent Justice in a Different Key: Glaspell’s “Trifles, par. 7).
An important symbol is the kitchen of Mrs. Wright’s house. It is the place where her emotional and physical break down has begun. The mention of the jars that broke because of the cold temperatures is a symbol that directs the attention to how the emotional segregation and depression of Mrs. Wright was a process that took place over time. Her mental health is compared to the jars, as her separation and loneliness in the house eventually take a toll, leaving a broken and cold house.
Mrs. Hale says that” (looking about) It never seemed a very cheerful place” (Glaspell, 14). The mention that Mrs. Wright used to sing and be happy proves how much her life has changed and what resulted.
Here, loneliness, female identity and emotional breakdowns are sarcastically labeled “Trifles” because, in a man’s world, the worries and perturbations in women’s lives seem like minor things, and even women themselves are played out to be mere objects that need not worry the minds of “great” men (Trifles: The Path to Sisterhood, par. 3).
Susan Glaspell does a great job in showing how dominant and abusive the world has been about women and how many problems which existed, were blamed on outside influences but were caused by men themselves. An equally important theme of the whole play is the femininity with which the story is filled. The setting of the play takes place in the kitchen where abusive men have made women cook and clean.
The irony of this fact is made apparent since the whole play is set there. Even though there is a murder, and it must be thoroughly investigated, people are inclined to stay in the kitchen. At the same time, it is shown to be very feminine because women have always been better supporters of the household and family.
The endurance of women’s psychology was purposefully unnoticed by the male-dominated society. The strength that women exhibit is illustrated in support of other two women in the play and backed up by the fact that Mrs. Wright could go on living with such difficult conditions (Dead Husbands and Other “Girls’ Stuff”: The Trifles in Legally Blonde, par. 8).
The unity and understanding of women, as well as their segregation, are central themes of the play. They are exposed to show how society was always unfair and only through hardships and struggle, things have begun to change.
Clarkson, Suzy. “Silent Justice in a Different Key: Glaspell’s “Trifles”. The Midwest Quarterly, 44.3 (2003): n. pag. Web. 27 June 2013.
Glaspell, Susan. Plays. Charleston, United States: BiblioBazaar, 2006. Print.
Mael, Phyllis. “Trifles: The Path to Sisterhood”. Literature/Film Quarterly, 17.4 (1989): n. pag. Web. 27 June 2013.
Marsh, Kelly. “Dead Husbands and Other “Girls’ Stuff”: The Trifles in Legally Blonde”. Literature/Film Quarterly, 33.3 (2005): n. pag. Web. 27 June 2013.