If a 21st-century playwright updated Trifles, what plot, character, and setting details might change, remain, or serve similar dramatic functions?

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If a twenty-first century playwright rewrote Trifles they would most likely keep the power dynamic of an abusive man controlling women. The murder in self-defense or fear would also remain in the play. However, the setting might change. More women work now, and few people farm, so the play might take place in an office setting.

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Since only about one percent or fewer of Americans still earn their living through family farming, it is unlikely that a farm setting would be chosen as typical of the American experience.

It would be plausible, therefore, to put the situation in the context of an office environment. Most women...

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in modern society work outside the home. We could envision a women-dominated industry, such as a break room frequented by nursing aides or tellers's stations in a bank. The murdered man would be a boss known to be verbally abusive, to deny women raises and opportunities to advance, and perhaps even to be sexually harassing or abusive towards some of the women. We would have to picture the women perhaps in a small-town setting—maybe they are divorced or single mothers with many responsibilities. They could be forced to rely on their jobs to support their families with few other work options where they live. What would not change would be the power dynamic of a powerful and abusive man, with subordinated women economically dependent on him.

We could imagine the boss being murdered one day. A woman (perhaps the last one known to be at work) would be arrested for the crime. Coworkers might gather in her workspace or maybe the break room frequented by the women. The detectives would not be interested in this space, but the women might see "trifles" that would lead them to realize that it was here that the woman snapped because she was sexually assaulted. Maybe they would see the mace she had bought recently to defend herself rolled under a table and buttons from her blouse scattered on the floor. And perhaps her work would be scattered all over as if she had been interrupted. Her coworkers, understanding these clues, would piece together that she had snapped and murdered the man in self-defense. There are many plausible ways you could update this story once your imagination gets going. These are simply some ideas to get you started.

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If there was an updated version of Trifles, what details of plot, character, and setting would be different? What would be the same?

At the time Trifles was written more than half of Americans lived in rural areas, whereas today that number has dropped dramatically. A first change to update the play, therefore, would be setting. As most women don't live on farms, it would make sense to switch the setting to, say, a middle-class suburb, with Minnie living in a single family home.

Rather than the overwork that comes from canning, sewing, and other household tasks, women today are more likely to experience the stress of the double shift: holding down a full time while being expected to do the emotional work as well as the planning and organizing that goes with running a household. Therefore, I would put all three women into full time jobs, but perhaps "pink color" positions such as teacher or administrative assistant. I can especially imagine Minnie in an administrative position with a demanding boss or having to do work, maybe for an airline, that involves a good deal of unpaid emotional labor. By the time she comes home to an abusive husband, she has already had it for the day.

I can see her still snapping over the husband killing a pet, though I would make it a cat or dog, as that would be more relatable than a bird in today's world. The kind of trifles that the other woman would find that would show Minnie's strain would perhaps be abusive text messages from her boss and perhaps a checking account statement showing that the family was once again overdrawn because the husband purchased something frivolous. We can imagine the women sympathizing with Minnie trying to keep her fingers in too many dikes with no emotional support from her husband.

The men would make sexist remarks but more on the lines of Minnie being a "whiner" or women seeing themselves as "victims" instead of "getting over it."

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If there was an updated version of Trifles, what details of plot, character, and setting would be different? What would be the same?

Excellent thoughts so far.  I'd like to address whether or not the women would still withhold their findings from the authorities.  We understand why they did it; they knew the men who were ultimately going to judge her would not see the realities of the abuse Minnie endured.  In a more modern time, the investigators, the lawyers, and even the judge might be women, making their failure to disclose an real crime.  How that changes the story I'm not sure, but an audience would be much less sympathetic to their deception if it were a more modern tale.

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If there was an updated version of Trifles, what details of plot, character, and setting would be different? What would be the same?

What an interesting question to think about! Although so many of the issues are still prevalent in today´s society, I do think there are more options for women like Minnie Wright that would have given her other possibilities before she was driven to kill her husband. The majority of people now live lives that are a lot less isolated than previously, and so the chances of Minnie suffering by herself for so long would perhaps be less - though this is clearly still an issue for many women today. Women unfortunately still have to combat chauvinism and oppression in many marriages, but at least now there is a lot more help and assistance available. In addition, this help and assistance is advertised and known about, though there is still a lot of work to be done in this area. I do still think that the men not understanding the women´s world would work.

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If there was an updated version of Trifles, what details of plot, character, and setting would be different? What would be the same?

Excellent topic! This is a fun one to think about.  First, the idea of an isolated or stifled woman would still work.  We continue to hear about current examples of women "sheltered" from society who eventually can't stand it and kill their oppressors (fathers, husbands, etc.).

I think that the chauvinistic/sexist dialogue would also still be present.  Today's men talk about women's petty interests, such as style, hobbies, and decorating, and many of today's women still bash men's resistance to paying attention to detail.

I don't think that Minnie would have been blogging because her husband would not have allowed her to have access to the Internet (in the play, she's not even allowed to have a party line installed), but perhaps the outcome of her marriage would be different.  Now, we have shelters for battered/abused women, and more help is available if a woman want to obtain a divorce or separate from a bad relationship.

I don't know that there would be as much sympathy from women for Minnie as Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters had for her.  Women today appreciate independence and competition, and they might think that Minnie needs to stand trial rather than covering for her.  They might see her as being helpless.

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If there was an updated version of Trifles, what details of plot, character, and setting would be different? What would be the same?

I think an updated version of the play would have some notable inclusions that might impact plot developments.  The first inclusion would be the addition of information technology.  Examine the scenes and ask how would cell phones change some of the communication between characters?  Would the women have discussed recent texts or posts on Myspace or even any recent Tweets they received? Maybe Minnie keeps a blog about her marriage.   I think another major plot development that might change is that conversations between women, which in the play was deemed as frivolous, might not be so easily and publicly deemed as such in the modern version.  At the time of writing the play, discussions of kitchens, sewing boxes, and cross stitching can be deemed as "women talk."  I am not sure if those same stringent distinctions as to what constitutes "women talk" is as strongly defined today.  Along those lines, I definitely feel that there is still latent or direct sexism that is present in the workplace, and this discussion would still be present in a modern retelling.  Perhaps, this discussion of discrimination would not only be in the levels of gender bias, but also, maybe, class/ socio- economic bias, as well.

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If an updated version of Trifles were to be written, what details of plot, character, and setting would be same/different from those in Glaspell's play?

This is a provocative question, one that gets at the heart of the play.  This is not a murder mystery, but a play about women’s rights, women’s solidarity, and the difficulties of women in an “imprisoning” environment.  The closest modern (2012) parallel might be wives who are “intimidated” and abused “emotionally," but can’t be protected by the law, because the abuse is "emotional” and not physical.  In these cases, often a woman’s only ally is other women, often in a women’s shelter.  So perhaps the parallel could be at a women’s shelter, where a husband is found dead (at the doorstep or nearby), but none of the women will come forward; instead all protect the abused wife, because they understand the terror that the husband inflicted, even though she was unable to get a restraining order.  Another modern character touch might be a woman sheriff who is assigned the case, but hesitates because she is torn between moral justice and her obligation to enforce the letter of the law.  In fact, that dilemma is really the core of the audience’s experience—were the women justified in withholding evidence?

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