Repression of Women Exposed in Susan Glaspell's Trifles


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The Repression of Women Exposed in Trifles  

Susan Glaspell in Trifles explores the repression of women. Since the beginning of time, women have been looked down upon by men. They have been considered “dumb” and even a form of property. Being physically and emotionally abused by men, women in the early 1900’s struggled to break the mold formed by society.

Even with the pain of bearing children, raising them, doing household and even farm chores, their efforts have never been truly appreciated. Mrs. Wright was “…real sweet and pretty, but kind of timid—and fluttery…” as Mrs. Hale, her neighbor, describes her (22). This would all soon change after her wedding day. With Mr. Wright’s insipid character and lack of patience of any joyous sound, Mrs. Wright’s spirit dwindled to nothing. It seems she spent hours at a time focusing on her quilts, preserves, and caring for the only life there was in the house, her canary. Even when Mr. Hale offered to get a party telephone, Mr. Wright responded, “…folks talk too much anyway…”(5). This silence he preferred also applied to his spouse. There were no hugs given out much less a smile. He failed to give her even the most minimal sing of appreciation much less the emotional warmth she hungered for.

The coldness felt in the house as the sheriff and court attorney entered the house symbolized the same coldness brought about by Mr. Wright. For the house to be cold and gloomy and everything else outside the total opposite, was much more than just coincidence. It was as if when you entered the house a cadaver, cold and clammy, had embraced you in its arms. “ I don’t think a place’d be any cheerfuller for John Wright’s being in it”, Mrs. Hale told the court attorney (11). Mrs. Hale knew perfectly well what kind of personality Mr. Wright had, which is why she specified that she wished that she had gone to visit Mrs. Wright when only she was there. “There’s a great deal of work to be done on a farm”, says Mrs. Hale, yet they are seen as mere trifles because it is the women who take on these tasks.

“The treatment of women in ‘Trifles’”, a web site that analyzes the demeanor of women throughout the play, states “ The women are betrayed as if they are second class citizens with nothing more important to think about, except to take care of the medial household chores like cooking, cleaning, and sewing.

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Only the men (in their own eyes) have significant jobs to perform and relevant thoughts in their head”(1). Mrs. Wright’s life was pretty much in a rut. In search of any form of recognition, she focused on her quilt making and her preserves. Even though she had been incarcerated and being accused of murder, she worried that the fire on the stove had gone out and her jars of preserves would break. Meanwhile, back at the farmhouse the sheriff told Mrs. Peters, “ Well, women are used to worrying over trifles”(9). Again, overlooking the hard work spent under the hot sun picking the fruit and the process to preserve it in jars. As the court attorney looks for evidence in a cupboard closet, he finds a mess caused by the broken jars of preserves, the first thing out of the court attorney’s mouth is, “Not much of a housekeeper, would you say, ladies?”(9). It wasn’t like Mrs. Wright could tell the sheriff to let her out to clean the spilled preserves on the shelf.

These constant attacks on women are what keep Mrs. Peters and Mrs. Hale from revealing any of the evidence they had found. “The treatment of women in ‘Trifles’” web site agrees by saying, “This information, which should prove to be essential to the case is quickly put aside and appears to be unimportant because it was given by a woman”(1). While the men went upstairs to look for the evidence, both ladies went about the kitchen observing everything. As Mrs. Peters looks in a cupboard, she finds an empty birdcage. Mrs. Hale begins to explain to her that about a year before Mr. Wright’s unfortunate death there had been a man selling canaries at a very low price. This would explain where Mrs. Wright had gotten the birdcage, yet it didn’t say why one of the hinges on the door was broken. As we all know, canaries are bright yellow in color, they like to flutter their wings franticly in their cage while chirping cheerful sounds. Being an admirer of complete and utter silence, it is obvious that Mr. Wright went on a rampage and put an end to the only thing left that was full of life and happiness in the house. “No, Mr. Wright wouldn’t like the bird – a thing that sang. She used to sing. He killed that, too”, explained Mrs. Hale. After finding the strangled bird, she takes it and places it in her scissor box and wraps the lifeless canary in her finest and most expensive material. This heartless deed finally inspires her to put an end to her suffering and repression. Eye for an eye is exactly what was going through her mind.

All these cruel acts of abuse toward Mrs. Wright brings the story to a close, yet the oppression of women has been a tragic and on going cycle. Although women are escalating in today’s society, many are still being physically and emotionally abused by men. “Hopefully with education the male chauvinist in this world will come to realize the damage they are doing to those who love them and change this behavior before it is too late for everyone concerned” (“The treatment of Women in ‘Trifles’”(1)).

 


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