Trifles Trifles is a play by Susan Glaspell that covers the lives of several women and the men in their lives. The story begins with the murder of one of their neighbors, Mr. Wright, who is suspected to have been killed by his wife. The local Sherriff, Peters, enlists the help of his friend Mr. Hale to investigate the crime. Their wives are willing to help solve the case, but are denied this opportunity by their husbands who believe that they should spend their time worrying about their female things. Their husbands constantly mock them and make fun of their hobbies and way of life.
In the end, the women solve the case and conclude that Mrs. Wright killed her husband, without the help of the men, but choose to withhold the incriminating evidence from their husbands (Glaspell 5). The men do not take them seriously, constantly referring to the things they do and the roles they play in society as trifles. Glaspell uses setting, characterization, symbolism, and dialogue to criticize the unfair stereotypes of men and their roles and women and their roles. The play Trifles was written at a time when men and women had clearly defined roles and responsibilities in society (Giddens and Griffiths 56).
It is set in the kitchen of the house belonging to the Wrights. Mrs. Hale describes the house as lonesome, which is much like Mrs. Wright’s life. She did not have any contact with the outside world and interacted only with her husband, who mistreated and belittled her. Their house was located in a hollow ground, which ensured that she did not see what was going on outside their home. Her life was sad and lonely (Hosseini 5-8). Using dialogue, the author shows the readers that Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters also felt much like Mrs. Wright had.
They are unhappy with the manner in which their husbands undermine them. Society was largely patriarchal, and the roles played by men were believed to be far more important than those played by women (Schaefer 98). The women in this society have spent all their lives being ignored and belittled by men. The activities they engage in are considered inferior to the things the men in their lives do. Their roles as wives and mothers do not seem to bear as much weight as the roles their husbands play (Ben-Zvi 141-162).
Even though they are willing to help solve the case, their husbands would never let them. They do not take their thoughts and opinions seriously and cannot fathom how a woman could comprehend the complexities of the case at hand. They tell them to keep on trifling with their female things and advise them to leave these complicated matters to them. The women do not like it than men are constantly belittling them, and when they finally solve the case, they can understand why Mrs. Wright would kill her husband. Just like them, she had been belittled, ignored, and neglected by her husband.
When she could no longer take it, she decided to take justice in her hands and kill him. Her act of murdering her husband was a form of revolt against their male-dominated society. Mrs. Peters also makes her own revolutionary journey of female enlightenment from a meek and submissive housewife to a lawbreaking rebel who is willing to hide evidence from the authorities and aid a murderer. The men in Trifles have been over-empowered and led to believe that they are better and superior to women in every way. The men are not only portrayed as sexist, but also brutishly cruel.
They are harsh not only to women, but also to animals. The culture portrayed in this play, however, was somewhat representative of the relations that existed between men and women at the time. The feelings of the women in the play may have been representative of the feelings of women in general during this period (Smith 174). The author uses characterization to show the roles assigned to women in this society. Most of the women in the play have spent a large portion of their lives living in the shadows of their men. However, they are not at all happy with his life.
Mrs. Hale is a strong woman who particularly dislikes the roles assigned to women in the society they live in, and is quick to understand why a woman would go as far as Mrs. Wright did to regain her freedom (Shih 238). Even though she is willing to put up with her daily chores and responsibilities, she wishes that the men in their lives would take them seriously for once. She comes up with the idea of hiding the evidence that would incriminate Mrs. Wright because she understands why she did what she did.
Mrs. Peters, on the other hand, is a meek and submissive woman who takes an unlikely turn in life. She ends up becoming Mrs. Hale’s partner in crime when they hide the incriminating evidence. It is her way of taking back some of the power that had been taken away from women for years. She too hates the role and position that has been assigned to women and wishes that their lives were not so. The men in the play also fit into the stereotypes of their times. They are brutish and unwilling to accept the opinions of women, even when these opinions could be of help to them.
Their egos simply will not let them receive help from women. Many symbols have been used to criticize the stereotypical roles assigned to men and women in this play. The first symbol is the kitchen. The play takes place in the kitchen, which is a place assumed to be women’s territory. When the men walk in, they do not bother to look for any evidence here because all they can see is “kitchen things. ” Ironically, the evidence they need is among these kitchen things, but their unwillingness to spend a little more time in the kitchen prevents them from solving the case.
The second symbol is the dead bird and its broken cage. For years, Mrs. Wright felt like the caged bird. She was trapped in a mundane life and a loveless marriage. Before she got married, she had a lovely life. She wore pretty clothes, was happy and talkative, and even sang in the choir. She now spends all her time at home and does not get a chance to interact with the people outside their home. She is trapped, jut like the bird, and longs to be free. Her marriage had changed for worse, and she hated it. In the end, she strangles her husband in the same way he strangled her pet bird.
She broke out her miserable life in the same way the bird was broken out of the cage: violently. The women in Trifles were made to feel like their opinions did not matter. The men in their lives ignored, mistreated, and belittled them. In the end, they proved to be wittier than the men, when they solved the case and hid the evidence, thereby preventing the men from ever finding the missing piece of evidence. They proved once and for all, that they were better than the men, in spite of the position and roles assigned to them.