What are some similaries in the women's situations in Trifles by Susan Glaspell and Gwen Pharis Ringwood's Still Stands the House?

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M.P. Ossa | College Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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There are several similarities that we can find in the situation of the women of Susan Glaspell's one-act play Trifles and Gwen Pharis Ringwood's one-act play, Still Stands the House. The main similarity, however, is that all three women: Minnie, from Trifles, as well as Ruth and Hester, from Still Stands the House suffer strongly as a result of isolation, and as a result of their limiting roles as females. In the end, while Minnie and Hester literally snap as a result of their situation, Ruth also meets a demise; hers, however, comes as part of her socially-imposed duties as a wife. 

Concisely, both plays question the effect of isolation and remoteness on the psyche of women, and they also touch on the effect of social expectations and women's search for self-identity.

In Trifles, Minnie Wright is a woman described as someone who changes negatively after getting married. Her husband moves her to an isolated place where he seemingly abuses her both mentally and physically.

come to think of it, she was kind of like a bird herself -- real sweet and pretty, but kind of timid and -- fluttery. How -- she -- did -- change.

Minnie Wright, while trying to comply with her spousal obligations to an abusive husband, begins to lose her mind. The stitching is what shows how her "womanly duties" are affected.

and look at the sewing! All the rest of it has been so nice and even. And look at this! It's all over the place! Why, it looks as if she didn't know what she was about!

Similarly, the character of Ruth in Still Stands the House goes through a type of agricultural depression because she also lives remotely in a farm that produces nothing. What is worse, she has to endure the depressive and agonizing presence of her spinster sister-in-law, Hester, who is as depressing as the setting itself.

Ruth resembles Minnie before Minnie's marriage: still young, and hopeful of change. Hester is like Minnie Wright after she begins to lose her mind: cold, dissociated from reality, and with a killer instinct to save some of her dwindling sanity.

Even the motif of the stitching appears in Still Stands the House as the conduit that Hester uses, as a way to vent her pent-up frustration.

Hester is slowly unraveling her knitting but is unaware of it.  The black wool falls in spirals about her chair.

In the end, Minnie kills her husband after snapping from her impossible situation. Similarly, Hester snaps and tricks Ruth into taking a lantern to her husband during a snowstorm: A lantern that has not been refilled with oil. Therefore, each woman suffers from the consequences of loneliness as well as from the social expectations that society imposes upon them.

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