In “Trifles” by Susan Glaspell, numerous aspects or motifs havebeen covered. Literary features such as symbolism and setting havebeen used to describe the process of attempting to unearth the killerof Mr. Wright. However, the aspect of gender roles has been a primaryone throughout the play. The roles that the male and the femalecharacters in the play engaged in have clearly been defined. Thesecan easily be seen by looking at the sharing of power, communicationamongst the characters, physical appearance, and the behaviors of thecharacters (Copenhaver 125). In fact, the title of the book issuggestive of the different gender roles in the play. “Trifle,”meaning insignificant, is a term that is used in the play by Mr. Haleto describe the things that women get worried about. The maincharacters in the play who exemplify these gender roles are thesheriff, Mr. Peters, Wright’s neighbor, Mr. Hale, the countyattorney, Mr. Henderson, Mrs. Hale, and Mrs. Peters.
As the play starts with the five characters entering the house ofMr. Wright where the murder of Mr. Wright occurred, it is clear thatthe gender roles have already been defined. The men enter the housefirst, and the two women only enter after being invited by the men.From this scene, it is evident that men are domineering and they seemto take the position of power over the women who have to obey them(Copenhaver 98). It is essential to remember that this play waswritten in 1916 when women were oppressed, and the female franchisewas just a dream. Since men were the primary providers of thefamilies, women were obliged to obey the men. This is the same genderdiscrimination that is demonstrated in this plays opening scene.
Susan Glaspell has also shown that men are assigned the significantand serious jobs in society. The men in the play are assigned the jobof gathering the evidence that would be used against Mrs. Wright whois incarcerated. Conversely, the women are simply sent to theWright’s house to collect clothes and any other personal items thatMrs. Wright might require (Copenhaver 96). It is evident that thewomen were being demeaned in this aspect and they could not betrusted with conducting sound investigations. In fact, the malecharacters are separated from the female characters as an indicationof the separate gender roles. The male characters control whathappens in the house, and they even inspect the clothes and thepersonal items collected by the women in the kitchen.
The placement of the characters in differentlocations has also demonstrated the defined gender roles in the play.Women are restricted in the kitchen which Peter says is not animportant place, but a place with only kitchen things. The fact thatwomen confined to the kitchen demonstrate that they were demeaned.Women were associated with activities such as cooking, cleaningclothes and the house, as well as bearing and rearing children. Atthe beginning of the play, Henderson made a comment regarding Mrs.Wright’s lack of housekeeping skills (Copenhaver 99). This was dueto the way the house was disorganized. To affirm this gender role,Mrs. Hale defends Mrs. Wright by saying that it involves much work onthe farm. Women seem to accept their position as housekeepers.
Communication has also been used in the playto separate the various gender roles. Men are portrayed as havingfacts and expressing their findings clearly without difficult. Theirconversations are mainly focused on the case and finding thenecessary evidence. However, the women engage in conversations thatare not related to the case. For example, there is an instance wherethey are discussing loneliness and the feeling of isolation thatmarried women have (Copenhaver 100). It is clear that the womenstammer and have difficult expressing their views. They sometimescommunicate non-verbally, but still manage to pass the messageeffectively. This was shown when they concealed the evidence withouttalking but through sign language. Notably, their mode ofcommunication has proven to be better than that of the men.
Women have been portrayed as cunning anddishonest by Susan. Despite the men finding the necessary evidence toconvict Mrs. Wright, they conspire to hide the evidence without themen’s knowledge (Mael 283). This is an act of dishonesty, and theyused their wit to cover up the evidence. Furthermore, the women donot want the men to know what they are talking about in the kitchen(Kolls 6). This is contrary to the men who are honest and determinedto find evidence that would be used to convict Mrs. Wright. Thisscenario clearly separates the gender roles and portrays women in badtaste.
While concluding, there is no doubt that thegender roles in Susan’s play “Trifle” have been well separated.Even though the search for the evidence in Mr. Wright’s house isbeing conducted by three men and two men, their roles are separatedright from the beginning. The women have been restricted in thekitchen while men move around the entire house searching forevidence. Women are equally being commanded and directed by the menwho occupy the positions of power.
Copenhaver, Bonny Ball. "A Portrayal ofGender and a Description of Gender Roles in Selected American Modernand Postmodern Plays." (2002). ElectronicTheses and Dissertations. Paper632. http://dc.etsu.edu/etd/632
Kolls, Selina. ThePlay "Trifles" by Susan Glaspell. A Look at Gender andRole. New York: Grin Publishing,2016. Print.
Mael, Phyllis.“Trifles: The path to sisterhood.”Literature Film Quarterly, 17-4.281-284, 2012. Print.