In her play, Trifles, Susan Glaspell explores the culture-bound notions of gender and sex roles. Particularly, through the title of the play, Glaspell discusses how the concerns of the women are deemed as mere trifles or rather the unimportant and least valuable issues which bear little or importance in the true work of the society. Besides, women are only found in the kitchen and hence are not as useful in the society as their male counterparts who are considered crucial based on what they do. This being said, Glaspell compels us as readers to question the relative value of mens and womens perspectives. However, as the play develops, the power relationships between the two genders begin to gradually reverse based on how knowledge and perspectives are either valued or devalued within particular contexts.
To begin with, Glaspell dramatically examines the repression of women in the 20th century. Throughout the play, she paints the picture of women as individuals who are highly looked down upon, by the men. As the play begins, it is evident that women are mostly perceived as housekeepers and child bearers and also considered as the least intelligent people in the society. This is substantiated at the beginning of the play where the men approach the Wrights house as a crime scene while the women, on the other hand, perceive the house as a home. Thus, based on this premise, the playwright acknowledges that both the men and the women have two very different reasons for visiting the house. Notably, the men come to Mr. Wrights house to fulfill their obligation as legal professionals in the society while the womens reason for visiting the house was to prepare some personal things to take to Mrs. Wright who was in custody.
Similarly, while at the house, the men assume a serious and business-like look but the women are seen as fearful and nervous. This, essentially indicates the sense of distress and isolation of the females. Besides, instead of joining the men who sat at the stove since it was cold, the women stand at the door and implicitly declare themselves as spectators rather than active participants. Nonetheless, despite the sense of male dominance that is evident throughout the better part of the play, at the end of the play, the women seem to resist the status quo that was imposed on them by the men. While the men do not realize that the little things such as quilts mattered a lot, in this case, the women use such things to prove to the men that the stereotypes against them were completely wrong.
Despite the fact that the play portrays the women as the weaker gender, towards the end of the play, the relationship between the two genders begins to get reversed. For instance, women, and specifically, Mrs. Hale become the sole reason why little evidence that would have been used to convict Mrs. Wright, as the prime murderer behind her husbands death, was not collected. Mrs. Hale does this by passing these little pieces of evidence as trifles and also trying to hide them from the detective. Thus, this, in essence, substantiates the fact that the women are aware of who the killer is, based on the evidence they saw in the kitchen. However, due to them going through similar abuse in the society, they decide to cover up for Mrs. Wright. The menfolk, on the other hand, do not enter the kitchen where this particular evidence was, due to their ignorance and the stereotypic perception that the kitchen is the world of women. They, therefore leave out substantial evidence that would have been important for their investigation.
In conclusion, the women take advantage of the information and the knowledge that they had collected from the evidence found in the kitchen and used it against the men. By so doing, they joined hands and reversed the power relationship that caused their inferior status in the hierarchy of social gender and hence the spatial division. Therefore, in an attempt to end domestic violence and the injustices used against them, the women use trifles which men, on the other hand, mock them for.
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