Susan Glaspell's Trifles - Some Observations


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Trifles

I would like to make three major points.

Major #1: Since this is the first play we’ve read, the stage direction really caught my eye and I tended to consider it very seriously in determining the meaning of the work. The most obvious direction, which the essay by Parrish discusses, is that neither Mr. nor Mrs. Wright ever appear in the play, and Glaspell was the first to use this type of direction (which was later recognized as uniquely her own.) Other important examples of the play’s direction (not spoken lines) are:
( ... she is disturbed now and looks fearfully about as she enters.)
(Stops, his face twitches.)
In a manner of returning to familiar things.) Glaspell uses this direction several times.
(Silence; then as if struck by a happy thought and relieved to get back to everyday things.)
(Mrs. Hale glances in a covert way at Mrs. Peters.)
(Pulling herself back.) this is an emotional direction, not a physical one
Glaspell’s decision to present "Trifles" as a play instead of its short story original form (titled :"A Jury of Her Peers) gives the reader an opportunity to "see" the action better than usual, and therefore get a clearer understanding of the author’s meaning.

Major #2: What is the significance of "preserves?" I see the literal meaning, but what is Glaspell saying about a woman’s act of preserving things? The action in the play keeps going back to this jar of preserves (example: if the jar gets too cold, it breaks; preserves make a sticky mess; they don’t want to let Minnie know the jars broke and are not preserved.)

Major #3: Does anyone know about quilting? I’m looking for more specific information on knotting vs. quilting? I think Glaspell is using this craft (and it is a way of expression like writing and painting) very subtly to get her message across, but I don't have enough information to see it, although I do see the significance of knotting and the knot around Mr. Wright’s neck that killed him. Can anyone help?

  Parrish writes in her essay that Glaspell wrote and produced many plays, and won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1931. It is interesting and meaningful to read drama because it finds yet another way for women to find and express their voices. Parrish states that Glaspell’s writing focused on women’s "desire for equality and acknowledgement in a "man’s world.

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"" I also think that "Trifles" opens the door to a woman’s world for all to see. Glaspell’s work is innovative and important, and this is why she is called "the playwright of woman’s selfhood."

In Joseph Alvarez’s essay I discovered the original form and title of "Trifles." Considering the original title "A Jury of Her Peers" adds another dimension to the interpretation. That is, a title is so important to a work of literature, and when the student has the opportunity to see a previous title or perhaps drafts of a work, it enable them to see how the author created the piece, and speculate with more direction on the work’s meaning. Could the original title be responding to the American justice system? Does the reference to "her peers" suggest that many if not most women suffer like the character Minnie Foster? (As a side note, I liked the way Glaspell gave Mrs. Wright her own identity by stating her maiden name, and having Mrs. Hale and Peters refer to her as Minnie instead of Mrs. Notice too that Glaspell doesn’t give us either of these women’s names, suggesting that they’ve lost their personal identities.) I thought Alvarez’s assumption that all men in the midwest were uncaring was too broad, although Glaspell certainly shows that the men in Minnie’s life certainly were.

Lee’s essay talks about life in the early nineteen twenties, and her most interesting point was that even though the telephone was making its debut into America’s culture, it wasn’t enough to "break the communication barrier." Her point was that if Minnie had had easier communication with her friends, since people were separated by many miles and poor transportation, she may have found another way out of her oppressive condition. As it was, she tried quilting, preserving, cleaning, and loving (a bird) but could not get free of Mr. Wright.

Dawn Baire discussed the symbols in the play, namely quilting, and the bird and its cage. I’m sure there is much discussion of these so I won’t explore it here.

Adam Krentzman sites a definition of women’s suffrage that is important to understanding Glaspell’s work: "In America, as elsewhere in the world, women commonly were regarded as inferior beings. Their children, property, and earnings belonged by law solely to theri husbands, and various legal and social barriers made divorce almost unthinkable ... American women were legally on par with criminals, the insance, and slaves," and states that Glaspell was able to bring attention to these conditions with the play "Trifles."

Finally, Lindsey offers an interesting essay about the men in "Trifles," describing what life was like for John Wright (hard, laborious, little money,) and says the significance of being given the title "sherrif" allowed that man to be more dominant than other men in society. Lindsey says "no matter their occupation, all men were great workers," and this, too, is a very broad characterization of men in the early 19th century

 


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