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Analysis of Susan Glaspell’s “Trifles” Essay

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The single act play “Trifles” is loosely based on the murder of a farmer in the state of Iowa in the early nineteenth century, which Glaspell reported on while working as a journalist. The farmer’s wife was accused of the murder, and was initially convicted, but later acquitted. Literary analysts note that Glaspell “approached the case like a detective” (Bryan and Wolf). More than a decade after that incident, when she was a career writer, analysts describe, “in a span of ten days, Glaspell composed a one-act play” being inspired from that real life murder event (Bryan and Wolf). In “Trifles,” while the county attorney and sheriff, along with Mr. Hale are investigating the murder of Mr. Wright, the female companions Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters sort through Mrs. Wright’s kitchen and closets to collect her belongings. The investigators are certain that Mrs. Wright is the murderer, but they are looking for clues to establish a motive, and they ignore looking into the kitchen carefully assuming it to be unimportant. Through the voices of the characters, Glaspell criticizes the opinionated patriarchal society. In this play, although Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters find some incriminating evidence against Mrs. Wright, they find her not guilty of her husband’s death based on their knowledge of Mrs. Wright’s character, the strong imposition of her husband, and also because of their sympathy for her.
Analyzing the personality of the central character, Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters scrutinize the transformation of a pleasing and vivacious Minnie Foster to a lonely housewife, Mrs. Wright. Thirty years ago, Minnie was a very bubbly and charming as a girl, “used to wear pretty clothes and be lively” and she was “one of the town girls singing on ...


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...y, but Glaspell told their personalities through the voices of other characters. Integrating the male chauvinism delicately in various scenes and actions of the play, Glaspell showed the then existing male dominance, and challenged the readers and viewers to question who is actually guilty of the murder, Minnie Foster or the male dominant society! Glaspell also indicated that by tampering with evidence, the female characters not only concluded Minnie is not guilty of the crime, but also psychologically triumphed over their male counterparts.



Works Cited

Bryan, Patricia L. and Thomas Wolf. Midnight Assassin: A Murder in America’s Heartland. Chapel Hill, NC: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2005. xii-xiii. Web.
Glaspell, Susan. “Trifles.” The Norton Introduction to Literature. Ed. Alison Booth and Kelly J. Mays. 10th ed. New York: Norton, 2010. 1385-94. Print.


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