Susan Glaspell’s Trifles From a Historical Point Of View

The play Trifles by Susan Glaspell depicts the quelched functions of ladies in 1916 and holds underlying tones of the feminist motion revealed through the two female protagonists, Mrs. Peters and Mrs. Hale. This play paved the way for female authors in numerous areas, especially in journalism and playwriting. Carried out at the turn of the century, Glaspell’s work illustrated the occasions that were still going on at the time, and was used at a feminist tool by Glaspell to reveal the repression that was still so common.

Glaspell refused to opt for the social grain that people held for females of her time, which is shown by her life’s journey. Susan Glaspell, born in 1876 in Davenport, Iowa, was a woman who rebelled at many societal expectations of her time (Ozieblo). She graduated from Drake University in 1899 and then advanced to work for her regional newspaper the Des Moines Daily News. Glaspell wed her hubby just three years before the play was performed. Unlike most women of her time, who were quelched by society, Glaspell was not limited to home duties. She was found as a writer when she covered a case about a woman who murdered her hubby, the Hossack Case. She then went on to write the play Trifles, which is loosely based upon this trial. This became what she was most understood for as a writer, even today, and Glaspell likewise turned the work into a short story, “A Jury of Her Peers” (Ozieblo). She became a respected author with lots of short articles released in sophisticated magazines, a variety of narratives, and a book that was published in 1909 (Ozieblo). Due to the fact that of her status as a widely known and respected author, Susan Glaspell was able to depict her feminist feelings through her writing so it would in fact be seen and heard by the public.

Glaspell, utilizing the trial that she covered throughout her stint as a reporter, had the ability to compose the play through feminist lenses. This case, referred to as the Hossack case, was a large case and the paper published more than two lots articles about it from December 1900 to April 1901 (Bryan). This case involved a female who supposedly killed her other half in cold blood. Because of the repression that was still going on for females at the time, Mrs. Hossack, the better half and alleged murderer, did not get much, if any, assistance from the outside. The short article “Goes to the Grand Jury” by Susan Glaspell specifies “Public sentiment is still quite against the detainee, Mrs. Hossack” (Brady). While it was never totally developed in the testament of a Mr. William Haines, it is known that “the public normally accepts the story to that result as true and will sympathize with the county attorney in his efforts to found guilty the woman” (Bryan). Being a lady, Hossack did not have much of a possibility in the way of getting a reasonable trial, so she decided not to appear for her initial hearing and went directly to the grand jury. Hossack did not have a reasonable trial in that she was not governed by a jury of her peers as the law states, however instead a jury of men who most likely wished to convict her (Bryan). This was the same for the trial of the character, Mrs. Wright, in Glaspell’s play Trifles.

Glaspell did not agree with the outcome of the trials of Mrs. Hossack and used her play to illustrate her dislike in the way it was dealt with, in addition to illustrating the two sides of the feminist movement through her 2 female characters. The two females described in the play are very opposite in nature and in physical appearance. While setting the scene of the play, the phase directions describe them as “The SHERIFF’s other half first, she is a minor wiry lady, a thin nervous face. MRS. HALE is larger and would ordinarily be called more comfortable looking” (Glaspell 1156). Glaspell is setting these females up in such a way so the reader is aware of the 2 differing physical looks, which could in reality represent the 2 varying personalities of the feminist movement at the time. Mrs. Hale represents the people like Susan Glaspell who were really outspoken about the feminist motion and wished to provoke change in the United States for ladies and fight for their rights. Mrs. Peters on the other hand, represents the quieter ladies in the United States who do not know how to discover their voice yet and for the most part have identity only through their hubbies. The truth that while Mrs. Hale is offered a name and referred to as “comfy looking”, while Mrs. Peters is only recognized as “the CONSTABLE’s other half” and as having a “anxious face” demonstrates how little state Mrs. Peters has in her life and her house.

Throughout the play, the male characters treat the ladies as if they are silly. They brush them off as ridiculous and the things that they worry themselves with as dumb. At one point Mrs. Peters makes a remark about how Mrs. Wright will be disturbed if her maintains freeze and the jars broke. The males play down this and the Constable comments “Well, can you beat the women! Held for murder and worryin’ about her preserves” and instead of protecting his other half,” to which Mr. Hale responds with “Well, ladies are used to stressing over trifles” (1158 ). They do this once again when Mrs. Hale discuss some quilting of Mrs. Wright’s. She comments “It’s a log cabin pattern. Pretty, isn’t it? I wonder if she was goin’ to quilt it or just knot it?” To this, the Constable steps in and teases the ladies stating “They question if she is going to quilt it or just knot it” (1160) and the men laugh. This continues throughout the entire play revealing the reader the neglect that the men have for the women. Glaspell is showing the guys as unsupportive of the ladies, utilizing the men in the play as a metaphor for the guys and other halves during the feminist motion who scoffed at the women and their wives who were trying to defend their rights. There is likewise a metaphor in the bird that the females find that came from Mrs. Wright. The women talk about how lonely Mrs. Wright was and that she should have gotten the bird to keep her business and to sing, however the bird is dead. This is a metaphor for Mrs. Wright who may have just discovered her voice in her marital relationship and Mr. Wright eliminated it, or put a stop to her standing up for her rights.

Ultimately, Glaspell offers the females the advantage in the play by giving them the proof that the guys need for the trial to convict Mrs. Wright without question. The ladies decide in the final pages of the play by choosing to hide the proof that they have actually found from the men. Glaspell turns the table and makes the men look silly when they brush the women away, not providing any credit for finding anything of usage, when in reality they have actually found the motive for the crime. The County Attorney asks the females what they have actually required to give Mrs. Wright in prison. When he sees what they have he reacts with “Oh, I guess they’re not very dangerous things the women have actually chosen. No, Mrs. Peters does not need supervising. For that matter, a constable’s better half is married to the law” (1164) as if to recommend most other ladies so need monitoring while brushing off the piece of proof that Mrs. Peters has in her belongings. Glaspell utilizes Mrs. Peters to hide the proof at the end very intentionally as if to show the woman who used to be meek and peaceful as lastly deciding for another woman in a little method. This is Glaspell’s way of motivating ladies to speak out and stand up for themselves and other women in a discreet method.

Glaspell’s work incited lots of women to begin their careers in writing, as well as other professions and helped to move the feminist motion in America along a little further. This play, together with other works of hers, inspired numerous ladies across the country and still influence women today for the feminist motion that is still so widespread. Her method of tying in feminist suitables and feelings into her work was extremely vibrant, making her among the fantastic female authors of her time.

Works Cited

Ozieblo, Barbara. “About Susan Glaspell.” International Susan Glaspell Society, 2010. Accessed

Bryan, Particia, and Thomas Wolf. “Susan Glaspell.” Midnight Assassin, Accessed

Glaspell, Susan. “Trifles.” The Norton Introduction to Literature, edited by Kelly J. Mays, Much shorter 12th ed., W.W. Norton, 2016, pp. 1155-165.

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