Essay on Gender Differences in Susan Glaspell's Trifles

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Gender Differences in Trifles

  Susan Glaspell's play, "Trifles", attempts to define one of the main behavioral differences between man and woman. For most of the story, the two genders are not only geographically separated, but also separated in thought processes and motive, so that the reader might readily make comparisons between the two genders. Glaspell not only verbally acknowledges this behavioral difference in the play, but also demonstrates it through the characters' actions and the turns of the plot. The timid and overlooked women who appear in the beginning of the play eventually become the delicate detectives who, discounted by the men, discover all of the clues that display a female to be the disillusioned murderer of her (not so dearly) departed husband. Meanwhile, the men in the play not only arrogantly overlook the "trifling" clues that the women find that point to the murderer, but also underestimate the murderer herself. "These were trifles to the men but in reality they told the story and only the women could see that (Erin Williams)". The women seem to be the insightful unsung heroes while the men remain outwardly in charge, but sadly ignorant.


In this play, the men and women characters are separated even from their first entrance onto the stage. To the intuitive reader (or playgoer), the gender differences are immediately apparent when the men walk confidently into the room and over to the heater while the women timidly creep only through the door and stand huddled together. This separation between genders becomes more apparent when the characters proceed in investigating the murder. The men focus on means while the women focus on motive: action vs. emotion. While the men...

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...spect differently and side with their respective sexes. Glaspell intends these men and women to be representatives of their sexes. She shows the differences between men and women and their pros and cons. Most importantly, Glaspell shows the reader that the differences between men and women are definitely not "trifles".


Works Cited

Banner, Lois. Women in Modern America: A Brief History. New York: Harcourt Brace, 1974.

Glaspell, Susan. Trifles. Making Literature Matter: An Anthology for Readers and Writers. Ed.  John Schilb and John Clifford. Boston: Bedford / St. Martin's, 2005.

Glaspell, Susan. "Trifles." Plays by Susan Glaspell. New York: Dodd, Mead and Company,  Inc., 1920. Reprinted in Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry and Drama.  X.J. Kennedy and Dana Gioia Eds. New York: Harper Collins Publisher, 2004.    



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