What are the gender roles on display in the play Trifles? 

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amarang9 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In this play, we have traditional and out-dated gender roles in which the men are in charge of public and important affairs. Meanwhile, the men assume that the women are more interested and better suited to private matters which consequently have nothing to do with the murder. The men are, of course, wrong. 

The play illustrates these traditional notions of how men and women have been taught to act. The men are direct, logical, and they take charge of a situation which requires an authoritative role. The women are intuitive, compassionate, and meek relative to the men. Despite these rigid expectations of how men and women are supposed to act (and do in this play), it is the women who discover Mrs. Wright's plight and thereby her motive for killing her husband. The men, overly concerned with the physical evidence, are not concerned with Mr. and Mrs. Wright's relationship; the women do consider this which is how they show themselves to more perceptive, and simply put: better detectives than the Sheriff and the County Attorney. The men think that the women are merely concerned with meaningless things ("trifles") when in fact, these seemingly meaningless details provide the only meaningful evidence in the investigation. Mrs. Peters mockingly acknowledges how the men would laugh at what they (women) considered as evidence. 

My, it’s a good thing the men couldn’t hear us. Wouldn’t they just laugh! Getting all stirred up over a little thing like a—dead canary. As if that could have anything to do with—with—wouldn’t they laugh! 

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