While the character John Wright, a farmer by profession lies down on his bed to get some sleep, someone sneaks in to his room in the middle of the night and murders him by strangling him to death with a rope (Glaspell 1-24). Minnie Wright, the farmer’s wife is the number one suspect for the murder and the play centers on figuring this out. Composed in the year 1916, the play, Trifles, by Susan Glaspell is a one-act play with John and Minnie Wright as the two main characters. The story is based on actual events that took place in Susan’s earlier years. The play consists of three sequential parts, all of which try to elucidate the events that led to the murder of John Wright.
This paper provides an in-depth analysis of the play, Trifles, by Susan Glaspell. Specifically, the paper examines the themes of patriarchal domination and female identity as brought out in the play by Susan Glaspell.
By Susan Glaspell
As previously mentioned, the play, Trifles, by Susan Glaspell, is a play centered on discovering the murderer of John Wright. Together with the authorities and a group of friends, his wife Minnie, who is also the main suspect in the case, engage in a search of the house to identify the possible clues regarding his murder. Arguably, the play, Trifles is concerned about the relationship between men and women in society today (Keller 3). The author intends to use this play to communicate the different gender perceptions that individuals have in society and how this has affected their treatment in society. The relationship between men and women is brought out in different ways, and the characters in the play are used to accentuate how the two genders communicate, and perceive each other. The way the search is conducted in the house also shines a light on the relationship between the two genders, as the men dismiss searching female places and women are persisted in searching throughout the house for the discovery of what happened. Accordingly, two main concepts or themes are brought out in the play with regards to the relationship between men and women. These concepts include, patriarchal domination and female identity, and they are used to illustrate how the two genders related to each other in the play.
The male characters in the play, Trifles, even the deceased John Wright, portray a sense of self-importance, which they use to impose their ideas on the female characters. At the outset, patriarchal domination is brought out in the way the male characters give the female characters their identities by virtue of the relationship between men and women (Keller 11-13). The men do not believe that women can obtain their identity through their own unique personalities and for that reason have to rely on the men to achieve this. Patriarchal domination is also brought out in the naming of each of the characters, especially the female characters. While men maintain their own names after marriage, women are forced to take up their spouse’s names, which illustrates how these men have managed to dominate over women in the play (Keller 11-13). Additionally, the men are looked out to as sources of law and authority, thus building on the concept of patriarchal dominance in the play. The author depicts men as the serious-minded, and law minded individuals, granting them permission to conduct all the investigations regarding the murder of John (Keller 11-13). Additionally, male superiority in the play is so insidious that the men find comfort in disparaging the women’s curiosity regarding the murder. During the play, one of the male characters is quick to state that women are considerably inconsistent and intolerant to involve themselves in important issues (Glaspell 13). Patriarchal domination in the play is also brought out in the way the investigations are conducted throughout the play. Men accord themselves with so much superiority and self-confidence that they believe the only proper investigations that are to be carried out need to be done by the men. For that reason, the conclusion they reach regarding the murder of Wright appears as biased and inconclusive.
Closely related to patriarchal domination, another concept that has been brought out in the play, Trifles, revolves around female identity. Evidently, the female characters have lost their identities to their male counterparts (Keller 11-13). This comes as a result of the pompous male attitude regarding women and their roles in society. Because of this attitude, women have lost their ability to assert themselves, losing their unique identities, and being shut out of making important decisions. For example, in the play, the male characters state that, Mrs. Peters, the sheriff’s wife is married to the law because of the sheriff’s occupation (Glaspell 20). This illustrates how the female characters have lost their identities. However, the female identity is also, in a way, brought out as being superior to that of the men. This is clearly illustrated in the way the women carry out their investigations, as they are keen on finding out everything that may have led to the murder without any disregard like the men.
Glaspell’s play, Trifles, can be argued as being a feminist play. This is because the play is centered on showing the relationship between men and women, with this relationship being brought out as heinous. Men exercise dominance over their women, and for that reason, the women lose their identities in the process (Keller 11-13). In a way, the play encourages women to assert themselves much more for the betterment of their lives.
Glaspell, Susan. Trifles. United Kingdom: Walter H. Baker, 2010. Print.
Keller, Mathias. Symbolic Realism in Susan Glaspell’s ‘Trifles’. Germany: GRIN Verlag, 2007.