'TRIFLES' is always in the curriculum of DRAMA ANALYSIS CLASS that I handle in the even semester.
This one-act drama written by Susan Glaspell tells us about a murder of a husband, John Wright. His wife, Mrs. Wright -- her maiden name was Minnie Foster -- was the suspect since she was the last person seen when a neighbor -- Mr. Hale -- found Mr. Wright dead in his house. The following day after the finding, Mr. Hale came back to the house together with the Sheriff and County Attorney to gather evidence -- either to make themselves convinced that Mrs. Wright was the murderer or on the way around: they might find fingerprints of the 'real murderer'. These three men were accompanied by Mrs. Hale -- the wife of the neighbor -- and Mrs. Peter -- the wife of the Sheriff. The two women were about to collect some personal belongings of Mrs. Wright who apparently was already in custody; these personal belongings were, among other things. clothes, some stuff to quilt, etc.
Glaspell intentionally showed the contradictory traits between men and women: the three men paid more attention to anything 'big' or 'serious' to collect evidence, because the crime done was also a serious one: murder. On the contrary, the two women took a very close look at some 'trivial things (alias 'trifles') such as, preserves, bread set, a large sewing basket and a piece cloth Mrs. Wright was quilting. In the end, it turned out that the women even found the evidence that strongly showed Mrs. Wright was the murderer from those trifles, while the men did not find any. However, to show 'loyalty to the same gender' -- as accused by the County Attorney when Mrs. Hale defended Mrs. Wright when the County Attorney said bad things about how messy the kitchen of Mr. Wright's house was -- the two women kept the evidence for themselves.
DESPERATE HOUSEWIFE -- an analysis
From the conversation between Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters, one can conclude that John Wright had a contradictory trait from his wife, Minnie Foster. Before marrying John, Minnie was a very cheerful girl, singing in a choir, wearing pretty dresses as well as colorful ribbons on her hair. Meanwhile, John belonged to a very quiet man. He refused the offer of Mr. Hale to 'go on a party telephone' by saying that 'folks talked too much'. Apparently he didn't like noise at all.
Because of that, it can be concluded that during their marriage -- for about thirty years -- Minnie was forced to be someone else who was not herself in the past. She could not sing, she could not enjoy having a company -- let us say when a neighbor dropped by at her house. Mrs. Hale herself as a neighbor said that she did not really like visiting the Wrights' house since John did not like it.
When the two women found a dead canary hidden inside a box in the sewing basket, they directly drew a conclusion what made Minnie killed her husband. John killed Minnie's only entertainment. (Mrs. Hale said that only a year ago Minnie bought the canary, 29 years after the wedding, after 29 years living in a quietness and being repressive.) It can be interpreted that John killed Minnie's soul. No longer could Minnie control her emotion, she killed her husband.
The choice of 'kitchen' as the main setting by Glaspell refers to the setting considered as the only women's sphere in that era. 'Trifles' was written in 1916, the decade considered to be important before American women got their right to vote in 1920 after struggling to get it since the first summit in 1848. Despite the fact that women had spent some decades for that demand, the government did not really pay attention to it.
Through this play, Glaspell wanted to criticize the government that it was high time for them to give right to women to be involved in 'men's spheres'. Although 'only' gathering evidence through trivial things -- homemaking stuff -- in the so-called unimportant setting, the two women found evidence as well as the motif why Minnie Foster killed the husband.
A woman indeed will be able to do anything that people might think impossible when she is cornered, when she is forced.
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