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Essay on Trifles and A Dollhouse

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The plays, Trifles and A Dollhouse use the literary tool of symbolism to portray the way women were treated throughout the nineteenth century. Susan Glaspell uses the bird cage and the dead bird to signify the role and life of women in marriage and society, whereas Henrik Ibsen uses the dollhouse. These symbols allow the reader to recognize the plays main similarities in the treatment of women, such as men dismissing women as trivial and treating them like property; however, the plays portray the women’s lifestyles as different which seal their fates.
To begin, in both plays the men dismiss the women as trivial. In Trifles, when Mrs. Wright is being held in jail for the alleged murder of her husband, she worries about the cold weather and whether it will cause her fruit to freeze which will burst the jars. After the women come across a shattered jar of canned fruit, they converse about Mrs. Wright’s concern about the matter. Mrs. Peters states, “She said the fire’d go out and her jars would break” (Glaspell 918). The women here identify with Mrs. Wright’s concern, because they understand the hard work that goes into canning as part of the demanding responsibilities women endure as housewives. The Sheriff’s reply is “Held for murder and worryin’ about her preserves” (Glaspell 918). In other words, the men perceive the event as insignificant; they clearly see women as a subservient group whose concerns hold little importance. Likewise, the reader can relate to this treatment in A Dollhouse, when Torvald complains to Nora about spending Christmas time the previous year making frivolous ornaments instead of devoting it to family. Torvald says, “It was the dullest three weeks that I ever spent!” (Ibsen 1207). He believes her role i...


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...etty little hands–“(Ibsen 1207). Actually, what the husband means is that he wants his wife to remain like a doll and any type of strenuous work may flaw her image in the dollhouse. In the end, Nora wishes to step out of her classy dollhouse and become her own person, whereas Mrs. Wright, who was secluded, impecunious, and without outside resources felt her only option was murder.
All and all, Glaspell’s and Ibsen’s use of the bird cage, dead bird, and dollhouse allows the reader to identify with women of the nineteen century and the roles they played. Throughout the plays, the reader can visualize how men dismiss women as trivial and treat them like property, even though the lifestyles they are living is very much in contrast. The playwrights each in their own way are addressing the issues that have negatively impacted the identity of women in society.






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