How does Susan Glaspell’s Trifles reflect the treatment of women in the early 1900s?

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Susan Glaspell's Trifles shows women being treated as children in the 1900s. Mrs. Wright had an abusive husband, while the husbands of Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters are condescending and indulgent. In all cases, the women are never treated as intelligent adults.

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In Trifles, the two female protagonists, Mrs. Peters and Mrs. Hale, discuss the fate of a third woman, Mrs. Wright, who does not appear on stage. It is evident that Mrs. Wright has been treated with great cruelty by her husband and that no one has done anything about this. Mr. Peters and Mr. Hale appear briefly on stage, and while they are not cruel to their wives, they are condescending and dismissive. The title of the play refers to Mr. Hale's comment that "women are used to worrying over trifles." The men leave the women in the kitchen with the suggestion that this is their domain, and nothing of interest is likely to be found there.

Trifles was first performed in 1916, four years before women were enfranchised throughout the United States. The play makes it clear that Glaspell believed women were being treated like children. Mr. Wright has clearly behaved like a tyrannical and abusive father, curtailing his wife's freedom and making her life miserable. Hale and Peters are more like benevolent and indulgent fathers, mildly amused by the infantile preoccupations of their wives. What none of the men do is to treat the women as equals, who might be capable of making an adult contribution to a discussion about life and death. The play, therefore, shows how women were routinely infantilized in the society of the time.

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How does Susan Glaspell’s Trifles relate to the patriarchal treatment of women in that time period? What are some examples in the play that support this?

Susan Glaspell's play is set in the early years of the 1900s in rural Iowa in an isolated farmhouse.

Both female characters, Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters, do not have given names other than their title of "Mrs." and their husbands' last names. The same is true of the murder suspect, Mrs. Wright, until Mrs. Hale remembers her as Minnie Foster before her marriage. What is implicit is that the women's only identities are their status as wives once they marry.

There is judgement in the description of the state of Mrs. Wright's kitchen. The county attorney puts his hand in the cupboard where her preserves have exploded due to cold and says, "here's a nice mess," followed by "not much of a housekeeper." And when Mrs. Peters offers that "She worried about that when it turned so cold. She said the fire'd go out and her jars would break," the neighbor, Lewis Hale, says "well, women are used to worrying over trifles." It is ironic that the male attorney and neighbor malign Mrs. Wright for the "trifles" of untidiness when there is clearly something more elementally and profoundly wrong at the farmhouse.

Mrs. Hale suggests to the county attorney that Mr. Wright might have been partially responsible for the lack of homey cheerfulness of the house, but he dismisses her and moves on with his investigation. It's clear that he has made up his mind that Mrs. Wright's guilt is evident and that extenuating circumstances are of no interest to him.

Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters are infantilized by the county attorney and the sheriff and are kept in the kitchen while the men investigate the rest of the house, tacitly suggesting that the kitchen is the women's only legitimate place. Ironically, it is because of the women's ability to empathize that the motivation behind the murder becomes clear, but they hide the damning truth from the men, who believe that they have all the answers.

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