The play’s Trifles and Suppressed Desires wrap around a central theme of sexual tension between women and men. The characters are in search of life’s meaning and seeking self-definition. In Trifles, ignorance of sexism is exposed as a major theme. The play Suppressed Desires explores new feminist theories between a married couple. Both plays were written in the 1920’s way before the women’s movement began But this traditional way of thinking has surprisingly continued even today and is a very important issue in our society.
This is what makes both plays very appealing to us now.
The play Trifles is a true murder mystery by Susan Glaspell. The setting is in a lonely, cold landscape of the Wright’s kitchen, where the action of the play takes place. The kitchen is in disorder with unwashed dishes, a dirty dishtowel and a loaf of bread sitting out. The scene gives the impression of a lonely household with little attention having been paid to cleaning up either recently or ever.
Wright is placed in the kitchen in her rocking chair but does not speak during the production. She gives off much information by her expressions used throughout the play. I have read that in the original transcript of the play, the key characters never appear on stage. I believe seeing her gives a major impact to the setting. It helps the audience see the people surrounding the mystery. Even though she does not utter a word, her expressions help tell the story.
The characters enter the room from the outside and are bundled in heavy clothing indicating that it is extremely cold outside. There are three men, Sheriff Peters, who is dressed in a coat and hat. His clothes make him appear to be about middle class. Followed by the County Attorney, Mr. Henderson, who is dressed a little nicer and classier than the other men and the neighbor Mr. Hale.
Behind the men are two women. One is Mrs. Hale, the neighbor’s wife who is dressed very homely and Mrs. Peter’s, the Sheriff’s wife, who is dressed very nicely but looks very uncomfortable. The costumes help give the idea of the status of these characters and help declare what they represent. The most distinguishing was Mr.
Henderson who looked like he was in authority with his nicer outfit.
Both women stand by the door while the men go over to the stove to warm themselves up. The fact that the two women are behind the men is a way of introducing the fact that women are inferior to the men and are supposed to follow behind their husbands. In the beginning of the play you already see that women are living in a male dominated world. It is seen that the image of women has little value without a man. The women’s identities are obscured by those of their husbands.
It is emphasized when the county attorney reminds Mrs. Peters that she is “married to the law” because her husband is the Sheriff. It is seen that women are just a lesser sex compared to men. Women were also seen by having lower intelligence as seen when Mr. Hale says, “Well, women are used to worry over trifles.” In recent times they have been treated as more than just property, but not with the respect they deserve.
When the men leave, the two ladies are left in the kitchen by themselves. Instead of focusing on the men in the case, the play concentrates on the women. They engage in small talk and without even knowing it, they use the tactics that a trained police officer would be using to figure out a mystery. They talk about how the kitchen was left after the murder. Mrs. Peter notices that Mrs.
Wright had been knitting a quilt. As the two women are wondering whether she was going to “quilt it or knot it,” the men come down and laugh, making fun of the women. The men have no idea that the women have made a very important discovery. Mrs. Hale resents the men’s attitude and rips out the wrong stitches in the quilt and repairs them. The audience gets the idea the ladies are reacting .