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Essay on Action, Props, Costumes, and Visual Elements in Trifles

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Action, Props, Costumes, and Visual Elements in Trifles


Susan Glaspell’s play, Trifles, shows the importance of staging, gestures, and props to create the proper atmosphere of a play. Without the development of the proper atmosphere through directions from the author, the whole point of the play may be missed. Words definitely do not tell the whole story in Trifles - the dialog only complements the unspoken.

Susan Glaspell tells us her vision of the Wright's kitchen, where the action of her play "Trifles" takes place, through stage directions. She paints a gloomy picture of this center of activity.

The kitchen is described as being in disorder with unwashed pans under the sink, a dish towel left on the table, a loaf of bread outside the breadbox, and other disarray. This gives the impression of no attention having been paid to cleaning up either recently or usually.

The room has faded wallpaper, an old black stove, an old iron sink with a hand pump and no curtains at the one window. The unpainted table at the center sounds old and utilitarian. The descriptions suggests a very uninviting room with no frills or anything to brighten the area. Nothing frivolous or feminine, like flowers or colorful plates are described as being in the room. The one comfort in the room is an old rocking chair. This conjures up the impression of one lonely person occasionally sitting down to shell beans or string snaps. Is she always working in this room or does she sit and look out the window next to her day dreaming of what might have been?

The characters enter this room through a door at the back of the stage which goes to a shed then to the outside. The Sheriff enters first followed by the County Attorney, later described as...


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...ble in the dialog. It is done through looks and gestures. For example, "Their eyes met a look of growing comprehension, of horror...... Mrs. Hale slips the box under quilt pieces". They finally carry the evidence out with them. We are left to assume that the ladies will destroy the evidence making it impossible to prove that Mrs. Wright killed her husband.

The ladies make an unspoken decision that Mrs. Wright did not deserve to be punished for killing her husband. In their minds, evidence of his extreme cruelty to his wife negated her guilt.

This play shows the importance of the staging, gestures, and props making the atmosphere of a play. Without the development of these things through directions from the author, the whole point of the play will be missed. The dialog in this play only complements the unspoken. Words definitely do not tell the whole story.


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