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Feminism in Trifles by Susan Glaspell

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After reading “Trifles” by Susan Glaspell, the feminist criticism expressed concern with ‘the ways in which literature reinforce or undermine the economic, political, social, and psychological oppression of women’. During the time Susan Glaspell was writing “Trifles”, women were briefly apart of the social role and were mainly given the generating role which bound them to raising their children and taking care of households and husbands. Glaspell calculates many details to the play that granted it to understand/sympathize and speak up for women. A feminist analysis of Glaspell’s ‘Trifles’ focal points thoroughly these details not only through the title but, the characters, the roles taken, the conflicts and lastly the theme.

Trifles demonstrates the issues of claims woman had to face in during the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century’s. It was said, “the subject of feminism was women‘s experience under patriarchy, the long tradition of male rule in society which silenced women‘s voices, distorted their lives, and treated their concerns as peripheral”. We see this in the beginning of “Trifles”, “Mrs. Peters: Oh, her fruit; it did freeze. She worried about that when it turned so cold. She said the fire’d go out and her jars would break. Hale: Well, women are used to worrying over trifles”. The woman who had a voice of her own was silenced by the man’s loss to noticed her concerns as a real issue. When presented with a real issue from a woman, instead of listening or paying attention to her the men ignored what she had to say and dismissed her observations while also silencing her.

Another quote is county attorney, “No, Mrs. Peters doesn’t need supervising. For that matter, a sheriff’s wife is married to the law. Ever think of it that way, Mrs. Peters?, Mrs. Peters Not — just that way, Sheriff: (chuckling) Married to the law.” This is another example for how men don’t taken woman seriously but comparing them to the law showing us Women are forced to do as men say. This was one of many situations where this separates the woman into a lower status.

The emotional rollercoaster of woman are vividly noticeable in “Trifles” which the men seem to have a part in. Before Mrs. Wright got married she was described as a woman who used to have glamor in her life. Mrs.Wright’s neighbor, Mrs. Hale, made a comment that the last time Mrs. Wright seemed to be cheerful and bubbly was before she was married or, more important, when she was her own person Minnie Foster and not Mrs. Wright. Mrs. Hale complaining, ‘I heard she used to wear pretty clothes and be lively, when she was Minnie Foster, one of the town girls singing in the choir’. Even after the thirty years of marriage, Mrs. Wright is now only caring about the fact her canned preserves over freezing and being without an apron while she is sitting in jail. This deferential image was so endorsed back then in the society that Mrs. Peters, the sheriff’s wife, indicates that Mrs. Wright might want her apron in order to ‘feel more natural’. Any other roles would definitely be considered uncharacteristic. Hale, “I thought maybe if I went to the house and talked about it before his wife, though I said to Harry that I didn’t know as what his wife wanted made much difference to John”. Hale points out that John Wright doesn’t give two cares in the world about what his wife has to say which only makes a woman feel less powerful than she already does being married having to do everything. This portraying the men as making a woman an emotional wreck.

The main theme of “Trifles” is women’s oppression in which is expressed by the men’s point of views of the women. Throughout the play, the men treat the women as if they are foolish mediocre puppets whose only role in life is to serve them. Mr. Hale even says, “Well, women are used to worrying about trifles”. The play criticizes this way of speaking to women by showing that the “trifles” that women are actually worrying about solving the case and not the banter of trained gentlemen. But later on its said by the county attorney, “And yet, for all their worries, what would we do without the ladies?”. At this point it was an awkward reference towards woman trying to give them some credit even though he didn’t really mean it. County Attorney: “Dirty towels! (kicks his foot against the pans under the sink) Not much of a housekeeper, would you say, ladies?”. The County Attorney immediately follows up his attempt to be gentlemanly by being outraged and that Mrs. Wright has allowed there to be dirty towels in the kitchen. Woman getting talked down to only shows us even more of a man’s point of view on how they perceive woman.

The examples I have provided previously are only a few of many examples in the writing of “Trifles” by Susan Glaspell that show feminist criticism. She uses formal elements in the play to help convey as part to help the feminist theme. The proof is the title followed by the characters, the role a woman has through the play, the conflict and all the themes that bound together to not only paint a picture of Minnie’s life with her husband John, but by the development of the lives of all women who live oppressed under domination in a males life. The male characters in “Trifles” are regarded as smart and superior to their own wives, who are then treated as rather childish for their burden in domestic specifics. Susan Glaspell makes a feminist dignity as she describes all the female characters with such a brilliant way to secretly win over male prejudice. 

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Feminism In Trifles By Susan Glaspell. (2021, January 25). GradesFixer. Retrieved March 23, 2023, from
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