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Gender Roles and How Women are not Taken Seriously in “Trifles” by Susan Glaspell

In contemporary society, we usually regard everybody as an equivalent person who is entitled to equal rights. However, this point of view did not exist at the turn of the twentieth century. Men dominated nearly every aspect of society, and women were often overlooked. Gender-specific roles have positioned women in the kitchen throughout history, preparing meals, baking bread, and canning fruits and jellies. A woman was also supposed to care for her husband and be a great mother to the children (Real 12). In this light, the paper describes how symbolism, setting, and irony were used in outlining the theme of gender roles and how women are not taken seriously in the play Trifles by Susan Glaspell.

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First, Mrs. Peters and Mrs. Hale conclude that Mrs. Wright meant to knot the quilt. This knot is notable since it resembles the knot on the rope around Mr. Wright’s neck that Mrs. Wright tied (Glaspell 19). Furthermore, using the terms “knot it” as the final uttered lines points at this significance and offered the women’s choice to defend Mrs. Wright and conceal their uncovered proof a solid finality. The men on the spot dismiss Mrs. Wright’s suggestion of knotting the quilt as a simple error in her quilting technique (Glaspell 119). It represented the household’s domestic atmosphere since it is a technical term for crochet that the men are not certain of its meaning. Compared to the men’s rejection of the female experience as irrelevant, this stresses the importance of women’s experiences and how they are perceived.

Second, the play’s title is ironic to send a message to the reader that things are not as they seem. That said, the depiction of masculinity follows strongly behind the representation of domestic positions in this play. The men leave the woman to talk trifles in the kitchen as they move outside to perform the ‘serious’ examination of the case (Glaspell 20). The play’s heading denotes that men undermine women’s issues, demonstrating how men usually disregard women’s concerns. For instance, the male characters view the house and the women’s interests as a concrete environment with no linked emotions (Glaspell 20). Eventually, as the men ignore the women’s worries, their minor concerns lead them to crack the case.

On the other hand, the setting of the play reveals how women and men view Mr. Wright’s home from different angles. The men in this play are entirely unaware of Mrs. Wright’s emotional aggression at her husband’s hands. In this scenario, though, the women serve as Mrs. Wright’s unauthorized kitchen tribunal. The women discover signs of domestic violence and conclude that this is why Mrs. Wright murdered her husband. However, even though they eventually hide the facts, it is evident that women were able to find out the truth from the kitchen setting.

Furthermore, there is a depiction of how women are viewed differently by men through the setting. For example, the women and men in the play view the environment from divergent perspectives from the start (Abd-Aun and Haneen 169). On the one side, the men appear at a crime scene to discover the cause of Mr. White’s death. Besides, the men perform the investigation methodically but find little evidence to use contrary to Minnie. This can be demonstrated in how the county attorney handles his examination by questioning essential witnesses, including Mr. Hale (Real 13). The men believe they have done a proper analysis and believed never missing something significant.

However, regardless of their process, they do not gather any helpful information that might link Minnie Foster to Mr. Wright’s death. Conversely, the women treat the environment as though it were their own home as they attempt to put themselves in Minnie Foster’s shoes. They got Minnie Foster’s dead bird in her sewing basket (Huber 30). Conversely, the women realized that Minnie brutally strangled the dead bird during their further inspection and linking the act to Mr. White’s killing (Glaspell 21). Nonetheless, Glaspell attempts to challenge the gender-centered sexism that distinguishes against the female sexual characteristics by presenting women as more rigorous and intelligent even though they are perceived as not being qualified or equipped, thus representing men as inept.

Consequently, Trifles is perceived to be an early illustration of gender identity drama. That said, gender equality as a subject cannot be interpreted only as the composer’s or her protagonists’ appeal for women’s rights. Instead, it may be a metaphor regarding female conscience, the thoughts, and expectations correlated with a female character’s femininity. For instance, Mrs. Peters and Mrs. Hale, the two female protagonists, empathize with Mrs. Wright and recognize her reason for hiding the facts against her (Glaspell 19). Besides that, the men’s cold, unsympathetic examination of material evidence has blinded them.

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In conclusion, the play’s setting, irony, and symbolism were used by Glaspell in outlining the theme of gender roles and how women are viewed differently. That said, the title Trifles as used by Glaspell symbolizes gender roles and how women were never taken seriously in the play by men as worthless creatures. Besides, the setting is used by Glaspell to prove that women are never as “little” as men perceive them. For instance, the women manage to find the evidence against the suspect from the kitchen, a place believed by men only to contain women’s “things.”

Works cited

Abd-Aun, Raad Kareem, and Haneen Ali Haleem. ‘The Woman as “the Other” in Glaspell’s Trifles, Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun and Kane’s Blasted’, International Journal of Arabic-English Studies vol. 20, no. 2, 2020, pp. 169-186.

Glaspell, Susan. Trifles. New York, NY: Frank Shay, the Washington Square Players, 1916. Print, vol.1, no.2, pp. 19-25.

Huber, Daniel. ‘Some linguistic lines of thinking on Trifles by Susan Glaspell (the play and its film adaptation)’, American Theatre Lab, 2017, pp. 30-40.

Real, Noelia Hernando. Trifles by Susan Glaspell. ‘How to Teach a Play: Essential Exercises for Popular Plays’, Methuen Drama, vol. 3, no.10, 2020, pp. 139-141.

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StudyCorgi. "Gender Roles and How Women are not Taken Seriously in “Trifles” by Susan Glaspell." October 12, 2022. https://studycorgi.com/gender-roles-and-how-women-are-not-taken-seriously-in-trifles-by-susan-glaspell/.

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StudyCorgi. 2022. "Gender Roles and How Women are not Taken Seriously in “Trifles” by Susan Glaspell." October 12, 2022. https://studycorgi.com/gender-roles-and-how-women-are-not-taken-seriously-in-trifles-by-susan-glaspell/.

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StudyCorgi. (2022) 'Gender Roles and How Women are not Taken Seriously in “Trifles” by Susan Glaspell'. 12 October.

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