Feminism In Susan Glaspell's Trifles

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Feminism in Trifles Susan Glaspell’s one-act play, Trifles, is a classic example of feminist literature, based on actual events that occurred in Iowa at the turn of the century. “Glaspell worked as a reporter for the Des Moines News, where she covered the murder trial of a farmer’s wife, Margaret Hossack, in Indianola, Iowa. Hossack was accused of killing her husband, John, by striking him twice in the head with an axe while he slept” (Encyclopedia.com 1). Glaspell found herself sympathetic to Mrs. Hossack, a woman supposedly abused by her husband. Trifles irrefutably demonstrates how men considered women inferior during the latter 19th century. In fact, the central conflict of Trifles is driven solely by a gender issue. At the center of …show more content…
Wright, in jail for the murder of her husband, is the protagonist. The concept of the absent protagonist is one of Susan Glaspell’s greatest dramatic achievements. For instance, “Arthur Watermann believes Glaspell’s most effective and most characteristic dramatic technique was centering a play around an off-stage character, since somehow this generates a peculiar tension, like a hushed whisper that grows stronger as the play progresses” (Hernando-Real 135). The male antagonist versus female protagonist further supports the concept of Trifles being driven by a gender issue. The County Attorney brings attention to this thought when he criticizes Mrs. Wright’s housekeeping skills, saying, “Dirty towels! Not much of a housekeeper would you say ladies?” (Glaspell 604). Even the women call attention to this male versus female conflict “You know, it seems kind of sneaking. Locking her up in town and then coming out here and trying to get her own house to turn against her” (Glaspell 606). To Minnie Wright, the investigation would be an intrusion, both physical and emotional. The absence of her actually onstage in the play allows Minnie Wright, as the protagonist, to assume the role of any woman in a lonely and abusive relationship, at the mercy of the males who dictate what she is allowed to …show more content…
The two sexes look at things through a different perspective, resulting in a significant divide of what each considers being important versus trivial. The first symbol can be found in the title of the play. According to Webster’s Pocket Dictionary, trifles is defined as a thing of little value or importance (607). As the men investigate the bedroom where Mr. Wright was murdered, the women focus on what would be considered more trivial things in the kitchen where the motive for murder is actually revealed. A dead canary found by Mrs. Peters and Mrs. Hale is another key symbol in the play. The canary is a brightly colored bird with a melodious chirp, yet it was found choked to death. The women remember Mrs. Wright as having been a lively girl, wearing brightly colored clothes and singing in the choir. After her marriage to Mr. Wright, though, she changed and lost her zest for life. The dead canary symbolizes the death of Minnie Foster, the lively girl she was before becoming Minnie Wright. Just as the bird was choked to death, Mr. Wright was murdered by a rope noose around his neck. Mrs. Wright’s quilt pieces are another example of symbolism. All the pieces except one are neatly stitched. However, one piece is poorly sewn in a haphazard manner. The women realize this quilt piece is indicative of Mrs. Wright’s state of mind at the time of the murder. The men see it as nothing more than a

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