“Trifles” by Susan Glaspell is a one act play which analyzes the investigation of the murder of John Wright through various dialogues of men and women that are connected to the victim and his accused wife. This paper addresses the themes that occurred throughout the play that help to establish the historical background that affected the social relations between the people of that period.
The first theme that could be sensed throughout the play is the gender discrimination between the men and the women. The women in the play at first sight have a minor role that is given to them by men. They follow what they are told to do and uncomplainingly agree with their men. It becomes apparent later in the play that their role are underestimated and that they are able to notice those little things or “trifles” that the men ignore but are vital to the case. However the men’s ignorance and disbelief make them mock the women’s interest in details and describe them mostly as “women’s things”. Such attributes as speaking in lower voice and finishing the conversation whenever the men are around implies that women are not welcomed to be involved in serious issues especially when their objective is preliminary chosen merely to collect some clothes for Mrs. Wright.
Other signs of the women discrimination could be demonstrated through the reaction of men to the women’s behavior. This can be witnessed through replicas such as:
Well, can you beat the women! Held for murder and worryin’
about her preserves..
Well, women are used to worrying over trifles.
When the women tried to stand for Mrs Wright they were sarcastically mocked:
Ah, loyal to your sex..
They wonder if she was going to quilt it or just knot it!
Other signs of the relation between men and women can be sensed through the dialogue between the women themselves.
I don’t think we ought to touch things.
I’d hate to have men coming into my kitchen, snooping around
All of these small hints give a clear view of the position of the women at that time, however, it does not imply that this position limited their ability to think or make their own conclusions.
The second theme that could be outlined in the play is emphasizing the importance of the little details in life. As the title of the play might suggest, the little unnecessary details could play major role, yet can be overlooked while searching for the obvious. The “trifles” as a key word in the title and in the play sets the tone of the play in a way that demonstrates what the people should be paying attention to. As the play fluently progresses the reader unlike the men in the play realizes that the interest in the “trifles” helped the women to understand the circumstances and the real motives of Mrs. Wright killing her husband. However, because of the feel of discrimination that was discussed in the first theme and partly because of some feel of solidarity between the women these evidences never were told to the men. The idea that the small little details has pulled the specific deductions of women is a kind of irony that can be seen in discovering the truth through details such as the bread that has not been completely baked, the quilt that has not been finished and the dead canary bird.
The third theme that is addressed in the play is the theme of the effect of marriage on women. The dialogues between the women in the play show how the life of women had changed their behavior, attitude and interest on the long term. The description of the life of Mrs. Wright before and after the marriage from the words of Mrs. Peters and Mrs. Hale shows the isolation that is put on women after the marriage.
She used to wear pretty clothes and
be lively, when she was Minnie Foster, one of the town girls singing in
the choir. But that–oh, that was thirty years ago.
It could be assumed that the life of that period put some restrictions on the way women would have behave, however it is shown that this factor has nothing to do with era, rather than with the fact that marriage limited the life of Mrs. Wright to the only pleasure of having a bird that could be a reminder to her about her previous life. The contrast that is shown in life of Mrs. Wright when describing the house that she was living in at the time these events took place and the image of the cheerful young girl that “used to wear pretty clothes” can be connected to the theme of gender discrimination. However, the discrimination could be something that was always present, whereas the marriage was a force that changed the way of life and by following the fate of the bird, killed the soul inside Mrs. Wright.
Reviewing the analysis of the play it is obvious that the idea which is simple at first can bear deeper subtext, just like the “trifles” in the play. The theme of discrimination, simplicity and marriage show the context of the play in another perspective. Despite the assumption that the play mostly addresses the position of women it also can be used as an example of how one person should never overlook the “trifles” in his life.
Glaspell, Susan. Plays., 2004. Web.