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Susan Glaspell's Trifles Essay

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Susan Glaspell's Trifles


Susan Glaspell's Trifles explores the classical male stereotype of women by declaring that women frequently worry about matters of little, or no importance. This stereotype makes the assumption that only males are concerned with important issues, issues that females would never discuss or confront. The characters spend the entirety of the play searching for clues to solve a murder case. Ironically, the female characters, Mrs. Peters and Mrs. Hale, uncover crucial evidence and solve the murder case, not the male characters. The men in the play, the Sheriff, County Attorney, and Hale, search the scene of the crime for evidence on their own, and mock the women's discussions. The women's interest in the quilt, broken bird cage door, and dead canary, all of which are assumed to be unimportant or trifling objects, is what consequentially leads to their solving of the crime. The women are able to discover who the killer is by paying attention to detail, and prove that the items which the men consider insignificant are important after all.

     At the start of the play, all of the characters enter the abandoned farmhouse of John Wright, who was recently hanged by an unknown killer. The Sheriff and County Attorney start scanning the house for clues as to who killed Mr. Wright, but make a major error when they search the kitchen poorly, claiming that there is nothing there ?but kitchen things.? This illustrates the men?s incorrect belief that a kitchen is a place of trivial matters, a place where nothing of any importance may be found. Mrs. Peters then notices that Mrs. Wright?s fruit froze in the cold weather, and the men mock her and reveal their stereotype of females by saying ?women are used to worrying over trifles.? The men then venture to the upstairs of the house to look for clues, while the women remain downstairs in the kitchen where they discuss the frozen fruit and the Wrights. Mrs. Hale explains that Mrs. Wright, whose maiden name was Minnie Foster, used to be a lively woman who sang in the choir. She suggests that the reason Mrs. Wright stopped being cheerful and active because of her irritable husband.

     The women discover their first clue when they find a quilt that Mrs. Wright was sewing. The men make disparaging comments when they are questioning whether or not Mrs. Wright was going to ?quilt it or just knot it...


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...ngly asks the women once again whether Mrs. Wright was going to ?quilt it or knot it.? Mrs. Hale replies that she was going to "knot it," which can symbolically represent how Mrs. Wright knotted the rope around her husband?s neck and murdered him.

     In their discussion of supposedly unimportant items, such as the ill-stitched quilt, broken bird cage door, and dead canary, the women are able to collect important evidence and know enough information about Mrs. Wright to give her a motive for murdering her husband. The men, though, are clueless as to who killed Mr. Wright and why, even after they thoroughly search the house for clues. They believe that they possess superior intelligence and knowledge of the world in comparison to women, but cannot find enough evidence to convict Mrs. Wright. Even if the men did uncover the same clues as the women, it is highly unlikely that they would understand how that would make for a motive for Mrs. Wright, as they simply cannot relate to her as a female. Glaspell's Trifles shows how women reveal basic truths about life by paying close attention to detail, and shows the true importance of the things which men generally find to be trivial.


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