The play “Trifles”, written by Susan Glaspell in 1916, illustrates the author’s concerns about gender culture and gender roles in society. Society views women’s problems as insignificant, especially where men dominate. The author correctly raises the question of the value of female and male attitudes, which presents the reader with the same dilemma she faced. Glaspell has created a drama full of tension in two parallel developing narratives on the part of women and men. This work will attempt to reveal the main idea of the author’s work, which is the position of women in society and how their knowledge and perspectives are responded to in various circumstances.
Both parallel developing narratives are constructed on the difference in perception and reaction of men and women in the home space. For example, the Wright house is perceived by men as a “crime scene,” while women continue to treat it as a “house” (Glaspell 1156). Different interpretations are due to the original purpose of being in this place, so the reader may notice that men in this plot are more challenging, and women are more flexible, as reflected in their vision. There are two psychological aspects that the author tried to demonstrate by explaining the gender difference. The knowledge women extract in the search process allows them to determine the order of their actions in the presented circumstances. Through this activity, they realize that they are “devalued because of their low status” (Glaspell 1158) Men are indifferent to the emotional contribution of women in the investigation and their conclusion as to who is really to blame for the murder.
The reading of the play from the point of view of the concept of feminism is limited since the constructed categories of gender have their barriers in the course of the narrative. Readers may discover and critically note the heterogeneity of gender roles, but they will not be able to notice that the play is much more complicated in another aspect. The author questioned a more complex construct: how people understand each other and their stories.
The women’s approach and decision to protect Mrs. Wright do not mean that it is a consequence of their identity. More significant here is that Mrs. Peters declares that “the law is the law,” which emphasizes the lack of sympathy for the suspect, unlike Mrs. Hale (Glaspell 1163). The women initially did not plan to find something in the house where the murder was committed; the author portrays them as unbiased, which helps them discover valuable evidence. The suspect’s empathy skill encourages them, without discussion, to try to hide the fact of Mrs. Wright’s guilt and justify her actions. The guards interpret the federal law and their place in it, but this should not be tied to a specific gender. Their social position and position guide them with their ways of knowing the truth.
After the first reading, it may seem to the reader that the play is devoted exclusively to gender confrontation and the difference in the views of women and men. However, this is only partly true because the main problem lies in the difficulty of finding the truth and interpreting it. This process is as contradictory and divided as gender itself is different. It is not at all that both sexes absolutize their dominant values by default since this does not correspond to the search for truth and the complexity of relations between people. It is essential not to stop in the process of searching for the truth and to find explanations for the discovered patterns. The female part of the play embodies calmness and empathy, which balances with the pragmatism of men.
Glaspell, Susan. “Trifles.” The Norton Introduction to Literature, edited by Kelly J. Mays, Shorter 13th ed., W.W. Norton & Company, 2019, pp. 1155-1165.