Would you please criticize Trifles from the Structuralist Approach?  Thanks a million!

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mstultz72 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Susan Glaspell's one-act play Trifles may be analyzed from a structuralist literary approach by by examining the underlying structure and inherent tensions of the two groups, the men and the women.

The structure of mid-western turn-of-the-century American society is defined by the male: he is the agrarian worker, while his wife is the domestic support.  As such, there is a division of labor in the house, a segregation in gender roles.  The male's realm is everything except the kitchen.  Murder, especially strangulation, and the investigation thereof are predominately male realms as well.

So, from the beginning we see the division and conflict between the two competing groups.  Males control think they control the investigation, and they leave the females in the kitchen to do women's work: to gossip and, if they're useful, to fix them some food.

In the play, the men refuse to see the subtle clues inherent in women's work.  As such, they confine their search for clues in the bedroom and barn, two settings where males define their roles.  They refuse to acknowledge the importance of the kitchen or the signs of female duress therein: the dead bird, the hurried knotting, the lack of a telephone.

The females treat the males the same way they have been treated for centuries, by revenge and neglect.  The women hide the evidence from the men so as to protect their murderous "sister".  In this say, they support revenge, a typical male response.  They flout the law, another male realm, through suppression and neglect.  So says critic Lane Glenn:

Yet what, really, is their [the women's] accomplishment? In rationalizing and justifying Minnie Wright’s actions, then concealing evidence from her investigators, these formerly innocent, law-abiding Mid- western farm wives have become accomplices to a grisly murder. In seeking retribution for perceived oppression, and in trying to reform society, they have actually denigrated the moral fiber of their world.