How are the views of marriage in Susan Glaspell's Trifles and Kate Chopin's "The Story of an Hour" different?

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booboosmoosh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Kate Chopin's "The Story of an Hour" and Susan Glaspell's play, Trifles, are similar in that we see women who are trapped in their marriages.

There are several differences between the two stories. In Trifles, Mrs. Wright is trapped in a loveless marriage and her husband is vicious: emotionally and mentally—if not physically—abusive. Mrs. Wright obviously hated him. Her life has been hard—she has worked hard trying to make a pleasant home out of a dark and lonely house. Minnie Wright has little exposure to anything pleasant. We learn that her husband killed her canary; it may have been her only joy—as Mrs. Wright loved music. It may well have caused her to snap.

MRS. HALE [With a slow look around her.] I wonder how it would seem never to have had any children around. [Pause.] No, Wright wouldn't like the bird--a thing that sang. She used to sing. He killed that, too.

In this story, the men are openly dismissive and chauvinistic:

MRS. HALE It's log-cabin pattern. Pretty, isn't it? I wonder if she was goin' to quilt it or just knot it?

[Footsteps have been heard coming down the stairs. The Sheriff enters followed by Hale and the County Attorney.

SHERIFF They wonder if she was going to quilt it or just knot it!

The men are making fun of the process of quilting, belittling it though it takes skill and a lot of work to make a quilt. There is also another place where the men deride the "trifles" of daily life that women worry about—things that fill most of their days:

PETERS [To the other woman.] Oh, her fruit; it did freeze. [To the Lawyer.] She worried about that when it turned so cold. She said the fire'd go out and her jars would break.

SHERIFF Well, can you beat the women! Held for murder and worryin' about her preserves.

COUNTY ATTORNEY I guess before we're through she may have something more serious than preserves to worry about.

HALE Well, women are used to worrying over trifles.

Minnie Wright was a woman without hope. Her only escape was to take her husband's life.

In "The Story of an Hour," Louise Mallard's existence is very different. She has heart trouble, which is central to the story's plot. In terms of her place in the male-dominated society in which she lives, her existence would seem much more satisfactory than Mrs. Wright's life.

For instance, Louise and Brently Mallard have a more solicitous relationship. Sometimes she liked him and sometimes she did not, but he was always loving toward her:

She knew that she would weep again when she saw the kind, tender hands folded in death; the face that had never looked save with love upon her, fixed and gray and dead.

Louise does not hate her husband:

And yet she had loved him--sometimes. Often she had not.

However, she is just as much a prisoner as Minnie Wright. Louise does not seem to know that there is an alternative—life outside of marriage. She also does not know she is a captive. When the realization hits her, it takes her by surprise:

What could love, the unsolved mystery, count for in the face of this possession of self-assertion which she suddenly recognized as the strongest impulse of her being!

"Free! Body and soul free!" she kept whispering.

Louise is released from her imprisonment by the "accidental death" of her husband—or so they all think. His reappearance, unharmed, kills her—not because she has a heart condition as the doctors assert, but because of her loss of freedom.


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