The world is full of different kinds of opposites: water and fire; death and life; winter and summer, etc. But the biggest paradox is that man and woman may appear as the strongest opposition. During all its history the humanity there has always been the contrapositions of men’s and women’s logic, their nature and overlook. The psychological resources even proved the fact that man’s and woman’s brains work differently. There are a lot of instances of man-woman relations in art and literature from different epochs. Susan Glaspell’s play, Trifles, is based on the same gender opposition. This paper is concerned with the gender influences on characters and attitudes to each other, the instances of manifestation of different ways of thinking between men and women, and a question of female solidarity.
Susan Glaspell explores the theme of the difference between genders and the fact that women are more attentive to the tiny things, which, present crucial importance to women however just a trifle for men. The attention to detail is one of the main points of the play. The little pieces and trifles seen by the woman’s eye resemble the parts of a puzzle. When they are put together in a proper order they present a full picture of the murder. Such an approach to the investigation pertains to the didactic one.
The author also makes use of the different instances of discovering men’s false domination under women. Women are making the essential part of the investigation paying attention to the details that are not obvious for men. But such an approach seems ridiculous to men:
Mrs. Peters: She worried about that when it turned so cold. She said the fire’d go out and her jars would break.
Sheriff: Well, can you beat the women! Held for murder and worrying about her preserves.
Mr. Hale: Well, women are used to worrying over trifles. (Glaspell, 5.)
Some instances of difference in logical thinking is another point of manifestation of the gender’s opposition. The men are wondering why the murderer used a rope instead of a more effective gun. The women oppose that this murder was made as an act of revenge for strangling a favorite bird by Mrs. Wright. “The strangling of Mr. Wright, which perplexes all when a gun was handy, is reminiscent of the strangling of that bird” (Rottenberg, 57)
The men explained it by the simple fact that the cat might have eaten the bird paying no attention to the absence of the cat in the house. Thus, this episode demonstrates the futility of men’s way of thinking and the absence of any attention to detail.
Furthermore, the women establish a real murderer by involving their background knowledge about relations in Wright’s family and Mrs. Wright as a personality.
We know her from the story as a cold woman with not much to do in her life. She has no children and all that she had for company was a bird. Mrs. Wright is no longer the sweet fluttery bird she used to be. (Rottenberg, 105).
This change is a result of Mr. Wright’s rude attitude to his wife and his despotic character. One of the women even depicts life with him in such way: “Mrs. Hale: But he was a hard man, Mrs. Peters. Just to pass the time of day with him–like a raw wind that gets to the bone.” (Glaspell, 6)
Feeling a real sympathy for the woman who finally got rid of her despotic husband the other women exercised a female consolidation by hiding the box with the dead bird which could serve as serious evidence if men could figure out the connection between the suffocated bird and a man.
Therefore, the play expresses the importance of female consolidation in man-woman relations. Besides, it signifies the conceit and selfishness of men.
The men within this play betray a sense of self-importance. They present themselves as tough, serious-minded detectives when in truth they are not nearly as observant as the female characters. Their pompous attitude causes the women to feel defensive and form ranks. Stealing the box with the dead bird is an act of loyalty to their gender and an act of defiance against a callous patriarchal society. (Rottenberg, 45 )
The play is dedicated to the manifestation of the possible ways of the gender’s convergence and cooperation by realizing and depicting the factors that ruin harmony in the men-women relations.
Glaspell, Susan. Trifles: A Play in One Act. New York: Penguin Books, 1996.
Rottenberg, Anette. The Structure of Argument. New York: Bedford, 2006.