Identify some commonalities between the characters in the play Trifles by Susan Glaspell and those in A Doll's House by Henrik Ibsen.

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booboosmoosh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The characters that seem most similar to me in comparing Trifles by Susan Glaspell and A Doll's House by Henrik Ibsen are Mr. Hale and the County Attorney, and Torvald Helmer.

A theme common to both plays is the total lack of appreciation, respect and concern shown by the men for the women of the society in which each story is set. The County Attorney is a man who has no knowledge the hard life of a woman. He is quick to believe he knows all there is about the accused, Minnie Wright: in his mind, under no circumstances would she have a right to harm her husband. It never occurs to him that Mr. Wright may have been physically abusing his wife (as the dead bird infers). He makes light of the hard work women do, and dismisses them all in a patronizing way. Mr. Hale is little better.

When Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters express concern that Mrs. Wright's preserves have been ruined, Mr. Hale makes a thoughtless remark from which the play gets its title:

Well, women are used to worrying over trifles.

The County Attorney responds:

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

And then...

And yet, for all their worries, what would we do without the ladies? (…He goes to the sink…washes his hands. Starts to wipe them on the roller-towel, turns it for a cleaner place) Dirty towels...Not much of a housekeeper…

Through the stage direction, we witness a quiet resentment forming between the women for the men as they search for incriminating evidence; it is clear that Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters can sympathize with Mrs. Wright because their own lives are filled with hours of unappreciated work. Even Mrs. Peters has suffered loss and heartache that allow her to empathize with Minnie Wright's pain.

Torvald Helmer is similar in his belief that he completely understands Nora, and that nothing she does is important. In fact, she is not important. This is evidence by his treatment of her as if she were a child, his expectation that Nora will be a dutiful wife, and his inability to see that his wife has sacrificed a great deal to save his life. Torvald can only see that her actions might compromise his position in society.

When Nora notes that she saves all the money she can (and she really does so she can pay off the loan she took to move him to a healthier climate when he was near death), he belittles her:


...I do really save all I can.


[laughing]. That's very true—all you can. But you can't save anything!

Torvald never tells her he loves her, but treating her like a small child, calling her by animal names:

Come, come, my little skylark must not droop her wings. What is this! Is my little squirrel out of temper?

When the news comes out that she borrowed money to save Torvald, he has little time for the details. He does not even acknowledge her sacrifice or her fears, but berates her:


...I have loved you above everything else in the world.


Oh, don't let us have any silly excuses...Miserable creature: what have you done?

Torvald only relents when he realizes that his reputation is saved, but he has no worries about Nora: only himself. While Nora finally realizes that her husband does not really love her, and has little regard for her as a person, Torvald would be happy to continue as if nothing happened.

The men in both plays show no regard for the women in the play, but belittle and criticize them.