I'm reading Susan Glaspell's " Trifles" and " A Jury of her Peers". In understanding better from literary perspective; outside of the setting being in the 1900's when gender differences was a big...

I'm reading Susan Glaspell's " Trifles" and " A Jury of her Peers". In understanding better from literary perspective; outside of the setting being in the 1900's when gender differences was a big thing, what else can be a setting analysis that affects the story? 

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M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Great question! When it comes to gender equality, there are issues that often come interconnected with the historical period where they occur. This is because, as theories of individual and group dynamics often argue, issues are symptoms of their society.

Geographical location-

The situation that takes place in "A Jury of Her Peers" occurs in Dickson County. This is a farm-country area which, as it is expected, would consist on large portions of land separated by each landowners' boundaries.

As such, farm life is busy, time-consuming, and isolated. When the female characters in the story find themselves alone, they are at the mercy of whoever is the dominant household member: the male. In Minnie's case, she did not have additional support systems: no friends, no children, no neighbors. This means that she had no way to help empower herself nor learn about self-confidence and initiative. These are behaviors which are often born out of social interaction. When you live in isolation, social interaction goes amiss. 

When Minnie gets married she goes, presumably, from her father's house to that of her husband's. Her husband then decided that she will not share with anyone, or communicate with the outside world. Mrs. Hale never gets to come over because John freaks her out. Therefore, the isolation of the geographical separation render Minnie as a bigger victim of abuse; an abuse that will remain silent and secret forever.

Expectations-

In the words of Mrs. Hale,

There's a great deal of work to be done in a farm

Farm wives not only had to tend to their own households, but also serve as a right hand to their husbands, when needed.

Mrs. Hale, who is a lifelong farm wife, tells us in the story the amount of work that is typically done: cooking, preparing meals, preparing for the weather, mending clothes, keeping the home clean, raising children, and much more.

We know that, when she was single, Minnie was quite happy; she sang in the choir, wore flowers and ribbons in her hair, and seemed to have a lively disposition. Do we know if she would have enjoyed life as a farmer's wife? No. Do we know if the work expected of her made her crack, among other things? No. However, it is quite a possibility that many women did not see coming what was going to become their lives once they married. This applies to farm wives and non farm wives, alike. 

Reality

People are born with different dispositions. Being born and raised in a farm, does not automatically renders you "fit" for farm life. Many people come from families of farmers, doctors, soldiers, or teachers, and turn out becoming something completely different, simply because they ARE different. We do not know if Minnie was someone born with a different disposition than that of Mrs. Hale's. It is clear that Mrs. Hale, and even Mrs. Peters, seemed to be quite content with life, as they knew it. Minnie Wright, however, was a "songbird". We may confidently argue that she may have been born with an artistic streak that set her aside from the other farm wives. Could this be the reason why John Wright wanted to keep such a tight grip on her? It is both plausible and possible. 

As you can see, there are many ways to see how the setting, and specific facts of the plot, help us understand the play Trifles upon conducting a close reading of it.