What would be a good thesis to analyze gender roles in the play Trifles by Susan Glaspell?

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carol-davis eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Trifles by Susan Glaspell was based on  an actual event that she wrote about as a reporter. The focus of the play is the chauvinistic views of the men toward the women.  In fact, the title of the play emphasizes the view that the men believe that women only concern themselves with unimportant aspects of life: cleaning, cooking, taking care of the the family.  Of course, these are hardly trifles. 

While the men are standing around talking, the women discover that Minnie Wright was not a lousy housekeeper as implied by the attorney.  She was under duress probably while her husband killed the one thing that she loved in the world: her canary. 

Other trifles come to light which help to solve the mystery of the strange death of John Wright.  The bird cage door ripped off  its hinges, the quilt with the skewed stitches; the dead bird with its neck wrung---all of these trifles serve to explain why this quiet, meek woman would dare to do something so dastardly as kill her husband.  

The focus of the play is to compare the women and their astute considerations of the accused to the men's lack of observation of the telling signs around them---the rude comments which ironically imply that women do not have the ability to solve anything like the murder of an abusive husband.

There are several arguments that a writer might pursue: 

Minnie Wright like her bird was a caged prisoner. 

She ---come to think of it, she was kind of like a bird herself--real sweet and pretty, but kind of timid and fluttery. How did she change----Tell you what, Mrs. Peters, why don't you take the quilt in with you?It might take her mind off things. 

  1. From this thesis, the writer might cover the clues that demonstrate that Minnie had suffered at the hand of her husband. Since there are  few clues  given to any physical abuse, the emotional abuse would have to be closely examined.
  2. How she had changed would also be an aspect to provide the basis for the murder of her husband.  Her clothes, her singing, her spirit---all of these had changed since her marriage.
  3. Another facet of this thesis might look at the idea of whether emotional abuse justifies murder.  Had Minnie been temporarily insane due to the actions of her husband?

Another thesis that might work for a short essay might show the difference between men's  and women's perceptions of difficult situations. Women may look more closely at the trivialities which are the clues that often solve problems.  The men are interested in the rope.  

  1. The women look around and see the fruit spoiled which meant that Minnie took time to preserve food for the future.  
  2. Everything the Wrights had was old and used including Minnie's clothes which were extremely shabby. This was probably why she had no outside communication.  
  3. Furthermore, the women see the quilt and know that this was Minnie's pastime.  She was a careful seamstress until the last few stitches, which was probably when John went after her bird.  
  4. The Wrights had no children, but Minnie loved singing.  The bird would have been company to her. Much of the information requires conjecture, which is often how crimes are solved.

Of course, the bird and the box; the bird cage itself---all lead to the motive for the murder. All of these trifles help to solve the murder for which the women find her not guilty. 

These are the ideas that would serve as interesting topics for a short essay.