Andrew Smith English 1020 Professor. Jeanty Introduction “Trifles” and “A Doll’s House” By Susan Glaspell and Henrik Ibsen Women have been treated as lessors to men in the past, feminine equality is a new concept that has only been around for about a century. In both plays “Trifles” and “A Doll’s House” they address stereotypes of women during these time periods. “Trifles” by Susan Glaspell explores the mysterious death of Mr. Wright (Mrs. Wrights husband).
As the play progresses the audience gets insight to Mrs. Wright’s life, and how Mr. Wright treated her. Mr. Wright was known to be a brash, and unruly man. The women in this play (Ms. Hale and Mrs. Peters) both know the kind of man Mr. Wright was, The men may have known this too, but the time period the play takes place in, domestic violence toward women was not highly looked into. The text “Portable Literature: Reading, Reacting. Writing” explains that Glaspell’s main force behind the play “Trifles” was to shed light on the treatment of women.
The text states that “Women were unable to participate in the most basic civil functions, women largely discussed politics only among themselves and were regulated to a position of lesser status in their personal and professional lives. “(Kirzner and Mandell 773) “A Doll’s House” by Henrik Ibsen explores a character named Nora who keeps a secret from her sick husband. The play explores the relationship between the two married couple, and sheds light on how women were treated during this time. Nora was oppressed by her husband.
Nora felt as if her husband treated her as a child, which towards the end of the play is one of the forces that influences her to leave. Henrik Ibsen upbringing during this time period can help the reader better understand the reasoning behind his work. The text clarifies that “during the nineteenth century, the law treated women only a little better than it treated children. Women could not vote, and they were not considered able to handle their own financial affairs. “(785). The college textbook also describes that both plays “contrast the theme of women’s roles, rights, and responsibilities. “(73).
The reoccurring theme in both plays address feminine treatment during a different time period. A careful examination of women’s rights, and treatment during this period, and in today’s society as well, will shed light on the main force that drives both authors to write their plays in the fashion that they did. To understand feminine literature in the late eighteen hundreds, and early nineteen hundreds, one must first understand how society viewed, and treated women in this period of time. According to Kimberly M. Radek, instructor of Women in Literature, women and men were viewed totally different in everyday society.
Men were viewed to be “Powerful, active, brave, and worldly while women were viewed to be weak, passive, timid, and domestic. “(Radek). Women today are still somewhat held to these stereotypes. Media plays a huge role in the still existing degradation of women today in society. According to the “United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women” Media, and literature come hand and hand when it comes to stereotypes given to women. “Violent, and pornographic literature, and media portray women negatively in everyday society. “(United Nations).
The Standard iew of women from past to present has not changed tremendously. Stereotypes of women still exist, but on the other hand the rights of women in today’s society have changed Feminine rights during the late nineteenth century, and early twentieth century were pretty much nonexistent. Women did not possess the same rights as men. Women could not vote, sit on a trial, or have really any independence without a male force driving it for the most part. With these norms during the time period that the plays were written, many readers would consider the work of the two plays to be risky.
The force behind the unveiling of the struggle about feminine life in literature at the time was mainly due to education. Dorothy W. Hartman author of “Lives for women” explains that “The end of the nineteenth century was a time of tumult and change. “(Hartman). Hartman also clarifies that “New opportunities in education, employment and social protest caused many women to question the role society cast for them. Involvement in any of these activities often led to unanticipated results and actions that defined new roles for women in the decades that followed. “(Hartman). As women became more informed, feminism began to rise.
In the nineteenth century women’s suffrage was a movement that was growing at a fast pace. Informed women started news articles, and protested for equality. Both plays portray a sense of these values in their moral message, Both authors portray a message to readers that women suffrage was real, and tells the stories of these women through both of their plays. Now knowing the effects that media, literature, and the law play in the degradation of women, the reader can now understand the point the authors were trying to make in their literature. In “A doll’s house” a women lying to her sick husband was unheard of, let alone leaving him as well.
Henrik Ibsen captures the struggle women faced on a day to day basis by shedding light on how men belittled women at this time, and how women were supposed to deal with it. The Characters in the play, produce critical roles in the understanding of how women were degraded in this time period. For example in “Trifles” while the men are eagerly trying to figure out who killed Mr. Wright the women were the real crime solvers. Mrs. Peters, and Mrs. Hale are the two women that find the bird strangled in the box, which is a critical clue to the case. Meanwhile the men demean Mrs. Peters, and Mrs. Hale by laughing at them, asking the two “If she was going to quilt or just knot it! “(779).
That statement shows the readers the men think the women do not comprehend the severity of the situation, and that they are only concern is the quilting pattern. Conflict between male, and female characters is a reoccurring theme played out in both plays. “Trifles” and “A doll’s house” both rely on male, and female conflict to create drama, and express the differences between being a female during the late eighteen and early nineteen hundreds. The reader can perceive that conflict arises when questioning male authority.
In “a doll’s house” Nora is perceived as childish by her husband, leading Nora to make a decision to lie to her husband. If Nora did not feel as if she was seen as childish she may have talked to her husband before making her decision, and would not have been black mailed, and forced to leave her husband. Both plays challenge the traditional views of women during their time periods. In “a dolls house” which was written in the late eighteen hundreds women were not supposed to speak out of turn or have a voice in a sense, contrary to Nora’s character who is outspoken.
In “A Doll’s House”, Nora tries to figure out ways to calm the couple’s financial burden, but Nora’s husband is conflicted about the situation since finances are usually the man’s problem. During the late eighteen hundreds (and even today) finances lay heavily on the man of the house, and women are stereotyped to be caretakers, not breadwinners. “Trifles” written in the early nineteen hundreds challenges the traditional views of women as well. Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters lie to keep Mrs. Wright out of trouble.
The women protect Mrs. Wright because they know the struggle she faced with her usband, and wanted to protect her, and stick up for their gender. Both authors achieve the portrayal of women in society during their time periods. Ibsen accomplishes the stereotypical portrayal of marital spouses during the late eighteen hundreds, and how the women is expected to do what the man wants, or says. Ibsen work was considered controversial because it went against typical norms followed at that time. Similar to Glaspell’s work which exposed the breaking point of Mrs. Wright toward her husband, leading her to killing him in his sleep.
Both plays exposed how women reach their breaking points in a man controlled society The reader can conclude that inequality toward women during the late eighteen hundreds and early nineteen hundreds is the main force that drives the authors to write in the way that they do. Similar to the way media portrays women in today society, Ibsen play “A Doll’s House” is controversial for its time in literature, because Ibsen understood the challenges women faced during that time, and exploits it in his writing, likewise to the United Nations who are actively raising awareness to the degradation of women in today’s society.
Susan Glaspell’s play “trifles” grasps the notion that women in the early nineteen hundreds were considered to be innocent caretakers, while on the other hand turns the back to women when it comes to equality in marital relationships. Understanding women’s rights during the period the plays were written in, is a critical piece to understanding why the authors choose to write them in the fashion they did.