Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Susan Glaspell "Trifles" essay

This play is based on a simplistic but deceptive ground as implied by the title. Using a straightforward setting, the author intelligently surfaces two conflicting ideas through the choice of characters. The play is mainly about the “insiders” and “outsiders” as suggested by Holstein. The play presents the audience with two concepts about the scientific methodical investigative approach and the informal disorderly investigative approach. In this case, the investigators were the county Attorney, the sheriff, and a neighbor to this homestead. Mrs. Peters, and Mrs. Hale, who are wives to the Sheriff and neighbor respectively, accompanied them. There is a difference in perception by men and women during the investigations. Women were quiet from the beginning of the investigation because they were not part of the investigation team but had come to collect some household materials for Minnie Wright, who was then behind bars in prison over the alleged murder of her husband, Mr. John Wright. Men are portrayed as “outsiders,” whereas their wives are the “insiders’” in the play. This is based on how they carried on with their investigations and the results (Holstein 45).

Men perceived the setting literally as lone farmhouse that had no evidence of life in it. On the other hand, women perceived the place as a home. The men’s interpretation did not involve any feeling or association to the place, which is why they perceived it from the outside as lonely farmhouse. Mrs. Peters and Mrs. Hale associated with the place as the home where people lived and interacted (Glaspell 8).

The “outsiders” (men) used formal scientific approaches of investigation to gather facts. They were mainly concerned with facts that related to the murder and had no time for other minute details, which they thought was not important at that time. The attorney uses the investigation book to guide in gathering what was required in the case. They are systematic in their investigation procedures as they move from one room to the other conducting their search. At the end of their investigations in the rooms, both the Sheriff and the Attorney are convinced beyond any reasonable doubt that no stone had been left unturned, except for the unnecessary details (Glaspell 12). Interestingly, they discover at the end of the play that they had not gathered any tangible evidence related to the murder and were as naïve as they had been before the investigations. During the investigations, they followed a predetermined procedure and did not associate with Mr. Wright’s situation to dig out some of the details they had overlooked. To them, there was no difference between Mr. Wright and his wife. They are considered as “outsiders” in this play because they separated themselves from the situation and conducted their investigations as third parties. This explains why they gathered information as their approach would allow them. In addition, the source of conflict was internal. It was about the oppression Mrs. Wright had been subjected to by her husband. She killed him to regain her spirit back and be free (Glaspell 22).

On the other hand, women were keen on detail. They conducted their research without a particular but applied one principle that saw them unveiling the critical evidence to the case, something that men had not been able to perceive. They identified with Mrs. Wright’s situation as part of her suffering. They visualized what she had undergone and tried re-enacting her actions. This qualifies them as “insiders” to the conflict. Only the oppressed understands the pain of oppression, not the oppressor. The play was set in a male dominated society where men oppressed and disregarded their wives. Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters found it easy to unveil the evidence because they tackled the source of conflict by relating to their own experiences. Perhaps, they were also undergoing the same experience and psychological imprisonment that Mrs. Wright had been undergoing. They understood what had compelled Minnie to kill her husband. Ironically, men could not reach this level of thinking because they had not acknowledged that they were the source of oppression to their wives (Holstein 47).

As described before, this play is set in a male dominated society and women were mistreated by their husbands. This explains why the three men investigating the case looked down upon their wives and thought that nothing good could come out of their investigations. Had they accepted that they were the cause of distress in their wives, they could nave gauged why and how the murder took place (Glaspell 26). Consequently, they would have unveiled the critical evidence. They were not interested in knowing what had compelled Mrs. Wright to kill the husband but only viewed her from the legal perspective, a criminal and murderer. This makes them outsiders to the conflict in the play because of their lack of attention to detail. Mrs. Peters and Mrs. Hale are insiders to the conflict and identify with it through their own life experiences. This is the reason they managed to get to the minute detail and found the evidence men had not been able. Despite their decision to remain silent, they turn out as successful, even though they had been portrayed as inferior. Their decision to keep quiet is justified because Mrs. Wright had done the right thing and as long as men were naïve about it, they would use the same approach to gaining the freedom.