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Drama Essay

Introduction

“Trifles” is a famous play by Susan Glaspell’s play it was written in 1916. The play

tends to mirror the author’s preoccupation with culture-based ideas of sex and gender roles.

The author herself questions, and also asks the reader or viewer to question, the relative

importance of men’s and women’s point of views and this she did by plotting up a suspense-

filled play written in two distinct narratives, one from both the genders. Holstein points out in

her essay, that the questioning provoked is not limited to the women’s roles in society, but

actually about how knowledge and point of views are appreciated or depreciated within

certain backgrounds.

Synopsis

Why women pay so much attention to the little things? Answer is that attention to

details is the starting point of solving bigger issue and problems. These little things are just

like the pieces of a puzzle combine all these small pieces and one can see the bigger picture.

Susan Glaspell's play under discussion, Trifles, visits the same notion that women tend to

pay attention (even to insignificant things) that can lead towards the solution of bigger

problems.

The same theme is being visited time and again in the play Trifles, in which the men

think that the women only fret about the immaterial things, or trifles. The ignorant men didn’t

realize that the women were trying to solve the murder mystery by pondering over the small

details. In order to fully comprehend the theme one has to look at the drama itself.
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The first such example of attention to detail is come in 78-79th lines when Mrs. Peters

discusses the fruit preserves, "She worried about that when it turned so cold. She said the

fire'd go out and her jars would break." The Sheriff (a representative of other gender) tries to

undermine the observation by replying, "Well, can you beat the women! Held for murder and

worrin' about her preserves."

Mr. Hale, in 83rd line, again mentions the central idea of the play by saying, "Well,

women are use to worrying over trifles." This preoccupation to minor issues prevented Mrs.

Wright to start a fire and avoid the preserves from freezing.

Another such example of preoccupation to trifles is Mrs. Wright inability to awake

whilst her husband was being asphyxiated to death. Only if the Wrights are sleep in different

beds, Mrs. Wright ought to have felt the fight between her husband and the murderer. Despite

the fact that Mrs. Wright claimed to be a deep sleeper, still she should have listened the

panting and gasping of her husband and the wrestle going on her bed.

Giving importance to trivial observations was highlighted by the use of a rope even in

presence of a gun in the house. But then on closer inspection one reaches to the conclusion

that it “is reminiscent of the strangling of that bird." (On Susan Glaspell's Trifles)

One more example of noticing these minute details comes when the women discussed

the piecing of the quilt. They were wondering whether Mrs. Wright was about to knot it or to

quilt it. The Sheriff commented to the County Attorney, after overhearing the debate, in 163rd

line, "They wonder if she was going to quilt it or just knot it!" Mrs. Hale in lines 166-67

commented bitterly, "I don't know as there's anything so strange, our takin' up or time with

the little things while we're waiting for them to get the evidence." Between lines 170-72 the

women inspected the quilt more closely and Mrs. Hale notices the neat and nice sewing to a

point where it got messy she immediately purported it to be an indication of nervousness.

Whereas Mrs. Peters attributed it to tiredness. In reality "The quilt is a symbol of Minnie's
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agitation-her anger. The men though, laugh at the women's wonderings about the quilt. To

them it is of little importance" (On Susan Glaspell's Trifles). The messiness of sewing in quilt

was a metaphorical description of chaos in Mrs. Wright's life. The knotting pattern of the

quilt appeared to be similar to the knot used to strangulate Mr. Wright. The women became

aware of that trifle, but the men were still contemplating about the modus operandi of the

homicide and overlooked the similarity between the two knots.

One more trifle the women paid attention to was the presence of a birdcage, forced

inside a cupboard, without a bird. The inquisitive Mrs. Hale queried about the Wrights

owning a cat and Mrs. Peters denied it by telling about the superstitions Mrs. Wright has

regarding the cats. When the men come stepping down the stairs the County Attorney

inquired, "Has the bird flown?" to which Mrs. Peters replied "The cat got it." There was no

cat in reality, but the men didn’t question its existence or the lack of it (On Susan Glaspell's

Trifles).

Another such little observation was the broken door hinge of the bird cage. Mrs. Hale

noticed in 198th line, "Look as if someone must have been rough with it." It was the clear

indication of someone’s resentment and opposition. Mrs. Hale described Mr. Wright in 218th

line by saying "But he was a hard man, Mrs. Peters. Just to pass the time of day with him--

like a raw wind that gets to the bone." She carried on the discussion about the bird and said "I

should think she would'a wanted a bird. But what do you suppose went with it?" As Mrs.

Peters did not personally know Mrs. Wright, Mrs. Hale described her similar to a bird, sweet

and pretty yet timid and fluttery, but of late she had changed. The Mrs. Wright portrayed in

the story was a cold woman with nothing to do with her life - a childless housewife who only

had the company of a bird. She was not the sweet fluttery bird anymore. Interestingly, Mrs.

Hale thought about bringing some things to Mrs. Wright during her stay in jail to keep her

occupied.
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In the course of a quest for the scissors and some more patchwork fabric, accidentally

Mrs. Hale discovers a box with something enfolded in red piece of silk; this something turned

out to be the bird. It was discovered in 240th line and Mrs. Hale anxiously called, "But, Mrs.

Peters--look at it! Look at its neck! Its all--other side to." And after one careful glance Mrs.

Peters replied, "Somebody-wrung-its-neck." This was the first instance when the women

comprehended that actually it was Mrs. Wright who has killed her husband. They decided not

to break their alliance and turn Mrs. Wright in. It was difficult for both the ladies to believe in

their own discovery i.e. one of the town’s most beloved and exemplary ladies has killed her

husband.

Conclusion

As the women pondered over all the small details, they were able to spot clues the

men would find by no means. These women have actually solved the mystery. Whereas, the

men were still trying to work out what happened and disregarded the small cues and clues

that would have unfolded the whole mystery. I short "Women outsmarted the law, men in

authority, and even their own husbands because they took notice of the small detail that men

cannot see" (Ricker).

In her essay Holstein claims that the play Trifles is deceptive as it looks “simple,

almost inconsequential” (p. 282). Apparently it looks like that the play is only about the

opposing roles and viewpoints of both the genders. That is definitely one important part of

the play. The author had written a play about gender divisions created by strict social roles,

particularly, that the women are generally kept to the home only and that their roles generally

are not appreciated and recognized. But when one digs deeper one can not dismiss the feeling

that Trifles is about an even more philosophical concept i.e. the pursuit of truth, its

interpretation and explanation and its appreciation.
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Works Cited

Glaspell, Susan. Trifles: A Play in One Act. Retrieved December 15, 2008

from <http://www.vcu.edu/engweb/ eng384/trifles.htm>

Maillakais, M,; Evans, E. M.; Crocker, L. Glaspell, Susan. Trifles. American Literature

Research and Analysis Web Site. Retrieved December 15, 2008 from

<http://itech.fgcu.edu/faculty/wohlpart/alra/glaspell.htm>

Holstein, Suzy Clarkson. Silent Justice in a Different Key: Glaspell’s Trifles. The Midwest

Quarterly. Issue 44, p. 282-290. 2003.