Feminism in “Trifles” by Susan Glaspell

Susan Glaspell’s “Trifles” is a short play depicting gender inequalities. As a belief, feminism seeks social, political, and economic equality of the sexes. As a movement, it strives not only for equality but also attempts to establish opportunities and freedom for women to grow through intellectual, social, political, cultural, and economic activities. By taking a brief event of the investigation of the death of a person, Susan shows how women were living during her days and what women are capable of doing. This paper examines the play from a feministic angle. The three following paragraphs look at the characters in the play from the social, psychological, and physical sides of the gender differences.

The setting of the play helps the female characters to show their social miseries. Mr. John Wright is found strangled in his farmhouse in a lonely place. His wife sits untouched about the event and seems to be indifferent, “not getting a bit excited, but rockin’ back and forth” in her chair (Susan). Sheriff, County Attorney, and a man named Hale arrive to investigate the murder, accompanied by the wives. Through their dialogues the loneliness and miseries of a wife in a farmhouse are exposed. The brute male domination and man’s selfishness in family life are revealed when Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters discuss the past agony of Mrs. Wright. Minnie’s bird and the cage serve as symbols of her caged life. Susan also shows the freedom men enjoy through the investigation they undertake. Hale comments, “Well, women are used to worrying over trifles” (Susan). Men go upstairs anchoring their women in the kitchen. Another symbol in the play to reflect women’s social inferiority is the quilt and the act of stitching.

At the psychological level, the play tries to upset men’s pretensions. When Minnie says “I sleep soundly”, it is made very evident that she is no more willing to be a slave. Susan warns that woman is quite capable of rising to the occasion, and if needed, she can strangle man’s domination as Minnie has done. Men’s “hands aren’t always as clean as they might be”, reminds the author (Susan). Man’s intellectual superiority is ridiculed through the clever discovery of the murder made by women in the play. The discovery of the incomplete stitching of the quilt reflects Minnie’s state of mind. So is from the discovery of the strangled bird. Minnie’s innocent past is contrasted to her present state as a murderer to highlight the nature and intensity of female suppression in family and society. Minnie “was kind of like a bird herself” (Susan).

The physical aspect of the play lies in the selection of the place, characters, and the images used to convey the gender differences. The trifle objects are paraded in the kitchen and elsewhere in the house to identify women with their domestic confinement, with their kitchen identity, to be precise. Mrs. Hale says, “our takin’ up our time with little things while we’re waiting for them to get the evidence” (Susan). Though the women are physically left in the kitchen, instinctively they move out and display their intellectual caliber, though they are not expected to make intellectual contributions. The mystery is unraveled though they suppress the new information.

The play achieves what Susan strives to accomplish: the plight of the fair sex. The female injustice outweighs the legal aspect of the murder. The title speaks volumes about the conditions of women. Minnie is every woman: “We all go through the same things”, says Susan (Susan). The message is that the fury of the fair sex can no more be undermined, if women are perpetually suppressed.

Works Cited

“Trifles by Susan Glaspell”. 2009. Web.

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