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Does the setting in Trifles by Susan Glaspell have an impact on the theme of the play?

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lovestinks | Salutatorian

Posted April 3, 2013 at 10:39 PM via web

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Does the setting in Trifles by Susan Glaspell have an impact on the theme of the play?

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amarang9 | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted April 3, 2013 at 11:53 PM (Answer #1)

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The setting in Trifles is very significant. The play is set in a rural area, more specifically at an abandoned farmhouse. Being set in a rural landscape, the characters are meant to represent real people. And although this is set in America's heartland, the relatively larger distance between neighbors in rural farming areas implies a sense of loneliness that parallel's Mrs. Wright's loneliness. When Mrs. Peters and Mrs. Hale discuss Mrs. Wright's personality and relationship with Mr. Wright, Mrs. Hale notes that the house "never seemed a very cheerful place" and she implies that John Wright was not a pleasant man to live with: 

But I don't think a place'd be any cheerfuller for John Wright's being in it. 

With Mr. Wright dead and Mrs. Wright in custody, the farmhouse is empty and a lot of work (notably Mrs. Wright's) is left undone. Attorney Henderson condescendingly notes that Mrs. Wright must not have been a good housekeeper. Mrs. Hale, in subtle defence of Mrs. Wright, replies, "There's a great deal of work to be done on a farm." The evidence of unfinished chores, the abandoned farmhouse, and Mrs. Hale's and Mrs. Peter's analysis of Mrs. Wright's state of mind all help illustrate the theme of loneliness in the landscape and in Mrs. Wright's relationship with her husband. 

Like the bird in its cage, Mrs. Wright evidently felt lonely and imprisoned. Also relevant to the setting, all of the characters file into the house at the beginning of the play. It is cold out, so they rush into the house to get warm by the fire. The landscape is rural, lonely, and cold (bleak). The fact that the characters file in to get out of the cold gives a subtle indication that the area is cold (figuratively and literally) and that they are forced (trapped as Mrs. Wright was) to go inside. 

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