The Issue Of Patriarchy And Gender Inequality In Trifles

During the 20th century, women’s roles were limited marriage and motherhood, and housewives, which caused domestic dependency which resulted in daily lives being rules by patriarchy since men did not see them as equals. During the years leading up women’s suffrage in the United States, feminism began to surge across the nation, this is one of the reasons that Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Wright attempt to save Mrs. Wright from the restricted life she is living. Susan’s Glaspell play focuses on the issue of gender that drives the women’s progress in rebelling against the gender issues and the difference in male and female roles that have made women feel inferior. And leads to the development of empathy of characters towards the one of the main characters, Mrs. Wright due to the long isolation she has endured as a result of her aggressive husband.

Mrs. Wright, the protagonist in Trifles, “lives on an isolated farm, and because of her husband's cold personality and the gloom of her surroundings, she rarely has visitors.” Once women had experienced what this domestic freedom had felt like, it was hard to want to give it back up. Although it may have started small and quiet, by the 1900s, the women’s movement gained significant support as they attacked traditional roles of women in society. In Trifles, Mrs. Hale understands and makes sense of the fact that Mrs. Wright has endured a life consisting of 'years and years of nothing”, Mrs. Hale comes to the conclusion, saying 'I should think she would 'a' wanted a bird.” This is a symbol in the novel for companion and freedom. Early in the literature work Mrs. Hale remembers about the past where Mrs. Wright would wear bright attire and play a sweet song, yet then realizes that was prior to her marriage. 'She used to wear pretty clothes and be lively, when she was Minnie Foster, one of the town girls singing in the choir.” This goes on to show that the patriarchy and the male partner casted a shadow on her happiness and her lively personality.

Though the main plot of the novel focuses on the moral choices, Mrs. Wright goes through the complex choice of killing her abusive husband. Through the novel, the author reveals the isolation that Mrs. Wright or Minnie, go through because of her abusive husband, which ultimately leads her to strangle him, all simply represented by the lonely farmhouse. Glaspell uses this as a simile “Well, women are used to worrying over trifles” between the women and the trifles, to show how women are just trifles to men, insignificant. However, this leads to a similar complex choice for Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters when they realize that Mrs. Wright killed her husband. Instead of doing what they were supposed to, they realize that they too could be in that situation too and discover the feelings in them against patriarchy and the abuse of men. This leads to the development of sisterhood through the novel. Mrs. Peters and Mrs. Hale slowly piece the events together that led to Mr. Wright’s death and realize that them too have lived a similar though different life. “Enables all Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters to counter patriarchal law.” This is the underlying reason why these women choose to lie to the men about Mrs. Wright being guilty, forming a strong bond that unites them together, something that wouldn’t have happened if these two women were each alone dealing with Mrs. Wright, instead of supporting and giving each other courage, especially when Mrs. Peters has reasons to be terrified, as her husband is the district attorney.

Susan Glaspell, the author, understands feminism and writes this progressive piece even though she is suffering through times where women have no equal rights. The men, as soon as they enter the house, they begin judging and degrading Minnie or Mrs. Wright’s character, just because of the nature of their society. “Minnie wasn’t much of a house-keeper.” Showing how even though the men don’t know who has killed Mr. Wright, they already know, his wife has failed him by not doing her role. However, Mrs. Peters always continues to support Minnie, her friend. The ultimate moral choice of these women hiding the evidence found is what finally separates men and women. This work of literature also takes a hit at patriarchy as it implies that women are smarted than men. Although the men go to the farm and conduct and investigation, interviewing witnesses, asking for facts, and analyzing the evidence, they seem to find nothing, although they believe they haven’t left out “nothing of importance.” Nonetheless, when the women arrive to “help” they too conduct an investigation in their own way. While focusing on the memories and emotional aspects of the situation, they come to realize that Mr. Wright had killed Minnie’s bird, the one companion she had in her isolation, which makes the death of the bird even more hurtful. “She liked the bird. She was going to bury it in that pretty box”

This bird was used by the author as an ironic symbol, since birds are supposed to represent freedom and fly free in the sky, but in this case, the bird is the one that stays with Winnie in the isolated and oppressive marriage.

Susan Glaspell concludes Trifles with Mrs. Hale saying, “I know how things can be — for women… We live close together and we live far apart. We all go through the same things — it’s just a different kind of the same thing.” Offering the final insight of how she felt when she wrote this play. Although the direction of justice has been slightly tampered by the girls, Susan still acknowledges that it will be really hard for a society to accept women as equals to men, and reminds the readers that it still takes 3 women against one men, yet she won’t cease to empower women with feminist and progressive ideals and push them to act together, instead of fighting the battles as individuals. 

16 August 2021
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