In her fateful play trifles, Susan Glaspell explores the theme of relationships in society. Intuitively she highlights the gender relationships in a family and community. She secretly tries to condemn patriarchy in society by giving women victory in her play. Due to oppression, Mrs. Wright decides to strangle her husband to get access to freedom. However, the law has caught up with her. Although the men (Sherriff, the prosecutor, and the neighbor) struggle to discover the mystery behind the murder, the women note some clues that tie down Mrs. Wright. Therefore, Glaspell’s play exploits the role of gender in society as expounded in the next discussion.
According to Glaspell’s observation, each gender has its role that society expects him/her to fulfill. The main role of the woman (wife) is housekeeping or a homemaker. Therefore, when Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters approach the crime scene, their main aim is to console Mrs. Wright. Society forbids them from interfering with men’s roles thus the reason why they are unable to contribute to the investigation process. Furthermore, they relax while chatting and submissively wait for their husbands/men to show the evidence. However, as homemakers, the women (Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters) note the untidy house, which shows that Mrs. Wright is not socially and psychologically alright but she cannot complain because it is against the societal laws. The county attorney criticizes Mrs. Wright’s inability to clean the house (Glaspell 393). The women also have to bear children because Mrs. Hale comments on Mrs. Wright’s presentation as childless, which may lead to psychological imbalance. In addition, due to compassion, the women decide to hide the evidence, which could send Mrs. Wright to jail for murder (Glaspell 394). Mrs. Hale conceals the dead bird in a cage to make sure that she protects Mrs. Wright. Symbolically, the birdcage reveals that the women are fighting for freedom, a role the men have denied them. Moreover, the men will decline to accept any contributions from them because of their low status in society. Thus, Glaspell vividly outlines the character of women, which also presents their role in society.
On the other hand, the role of men differs completely from that of women. The scenario is, which the sheriff and county attorney approach Mrs. Wrights’s house, shows that society expects the men to uphold power. They lead the investigation by domineering in all activities. As professionals in society, the men aim to unravel the mystery behind the murder. They ignore the kitchen and other places, which they associate with the female. Concentrating in the barn and the bedroom (areas associated with men), they undermine the women belittling everything or place associated with the female gender. Sadly, the men ransack Mrs. Wright’s house in her absence, which proves they are oppressive. The men portray women as valueless an aspect, which hinders them from finding evidence needed to imprison Mrs. Wright.
In conclusion, through her play, Glaspell can condemn indirectly the gender inequality that prevails in society. As a cultural practice, the women are submissive and compassionate while the men are unappreciative, powerful, and domineering. Surprisingly, although society values the role of men, the women discover that Mrs. Wright is the murderer. However, defiantly, they hide their evidence. Besides being submissive, no man will accept any piece of advice from the women. Finally, through her play, Glaspell cautions the men to respect women.
Glaspell, Susan. “Trifles: a Play in One Act.” The Oxford Book of Women’s Writing in the United States. New York: Oxford University Press, 1995. 393-406. Print.