Form and Content

(Masterpieces of Women's Literature)

Susan Glaspell’s thirteen plays, treating mostly feminist themes, were produced by the to-become-renowned Provincetown Playhouse and in New York City between 1915 and 1922. Four of her works are found in the 1987 collection entitled Plays by Susan Glaspell: Trifles, Inheritors, The Verge, and The Outside.

From 1915 to 1919, Glaspell wrote six one-act plays. Several were satiric comedies, but some were less amusing. The Outside (1917) focuses on two recluses, a young grass widow and her widowed servant, dwelling in a remote former seacoast lifesaving station. They leave self-imposed isolation after realizing that abandonment by men, through either desertion or death, need not require burial from life.

Glaspell’s most outstanding, popular, and durable work is Trifles (1916), a short play whose genesis stemmed from a trial, attended by Glaspell, of an Iowa woman accused of murdering her husband. The play, set in a rural midwestern farmhouse kitchen and taking place on one day, centers on the fate of the accused offstage character, Minnie Wright. Two women are patronizingly relegated to the kitchen by their husbands, a sheriff and a farmer, while the men with the county attorney search elsewhere for evidence. As the women examine Mrs. Wright’s belongings, “trifles” attesting the life of a once-cheerful woman married to an abusively hard man who had forbidden her even a telephone, they discover incriminating...

(The entire section is 589 words.)