Which play is more realistic in portraying the male characters Susan Glaspell's Trifles or Henrik Ibsen's A Doll's House?

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durbanville eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There is an element of subjectivity in the answer to this question. On assessment, Trifles should contain the more compelling male characterization as it is based on a true story whereas A Doll's House deals more with a concept and the question of the rights of others.

The difficulties in Trifles become apparent as the story develops and the true life of the down-trodden, abused Minnie becomes clearer to the women and so they come to understand her motives behind killing her husband. The men on the other hand, see the facts before them  and are blinded by their own lack of insight. Mitigating circumstances are the last thing on their minds which unfortunately leads them to overlook key factors.

In A Doll's House, Torvald Helmer is also blinded by his own outlook and his wife's motives are also not relevant to him in his concluding that Nora has ruined his life. She cannot be trusted with the children as she is nothing more than a "criminal." 

For men of this standing, in both Trifles and A Doll's House, to be quite so obtuse is alarming but not unexpected. Whilst representative of stereotypes, there are elements in the characters of both plays that the audience can identify with.  

The men in Trifles may not be indicative of the modern man but they are a sorry reminder of communities where women were discounted, demeaned and thought to be lacking in useful opinion.  Similarly with A Doll's House, Torvald, apparently heroically, says he will forgive Nora for what she has done and begs her to reconsider but still misses the point.

For me, A Doll's House is more realistic in revealing the male characters as Torvald is a stock character - male, a banker, married, children, respectable and representative therefore of a whole sector of society. The men in Trifles represent a broader spectrum - a farmer, a lawyer and a sheriff - and as such there should be some differences in them. The fact that there aren't does reveal that communities like this did exist where ALL the men were equally prejudiced but for there to be no indication of any different opinion, to me, lends itself to the women's issues that Glaspell was concerned with thereby suggesting that the play itself has perhaps been manipulated to  highlight the plight of women rather than the retelling of a story of an unfortunate woman who murdered her husband.    

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