Among numerous examples of the feminist drama written in the beginning of the 20th century there is the play “Trifles”, written by the American writer Susan Glaspell, who aimed to show the unfairness of the women’s position in the society of that period. Many critics, among whom there are Mathias, Evans, Ben-Zvi etc, stated that it was her relations with husband that influenced so strongly the feministic ideas, which she described in her books (Mathias; Evans; Ben-Zvi).
Having read and analyzed the play “Trifles” it is possible to state that the author was focused on the position of a woman in the society, and the most astonishing about the crime was that it was committed by a woman. As Ben-Zvi wrote in her essay, the murder was so striking because it meant that the woman challenged “the societal constructs of femininity – passivity, restraint, nurture” (Ben-Zvi, 141). Susan Glaspell in her “Trifles” obviously denied such position. Though the man was considered to be the head of everything, in case of Mr. Wright’s murder only women managed to understand and trace the real motives of his wife. In such way Glaspell showed that the generally accepted view that men are superior to women is wrong. Moreover, a murder was morally justified by the author in her play, which proves that she was supporting the female characters in her play. She showed that two women understood Minnie and made a particularly important decision to protect her, even Mrs. Peters, who was “married to the law”, took the side of the criminal and sympathized her (Glaspell). To my mind, in such way Susan Glaspell offered the idea that moral can be changeable and even such awful crime as murder can be justified sometimes. The decisions made by people can differ not only depending on the peculiarities of the case or situation, but on the gender of the observers as well. The author has created not only the heroes, who were trying to accuse Mrs. Wright of killing Mr. Wright, who was a “raw wind that gets to the bone”, but also those, who understood and even tried to protect the main heroine, Minnie, because they were aware of their powerless female position (Glaspell). Therefore, the opposition between men and women is obvious from the very beginning, when women went to the “gloomy” kitchen to study the trifles and reconstruct Minnie’s life and men were looking for the evidences apart from women. Consequently, the feministic views of Susan Glaspell made her show in her play not only the difference between the men’s and women’s position in the society, but also the differences in their views and behavior.
Susan Glaspell used the figures of three women and four men in the play. Mrs. Peters and Mrs. Hale were women, who quickly understood what had happened in the house, paying attention to the trifles, which have revealed what the real atmosphere in the house and the circumstances were. On the contrary, Mr. Hale, the county attorney and sheriff, judged the situation mostly according to the social norms. They were “trying to get Minnie’s own house to turn against her” (Glaspell). For instance, dirty towels, dishes in the kitchen made men think that Minnie “was not much a housekeeper” while women understood that the real reason was that “farmer’s wives have their hands full” (Glaspell).
It is important to mention that Mael in his essay “Trifles: The Path to Sisterhood” mentioned several psychological investigations held by Freud, Erickson, Kohlberg, Chodorow, which proved that “the level for ethically normal” for male and female representatives are different (Mael, 282). While men rarely follow their emotions when making decisions and their behavior is mostly impersonal, inexorable, independent of compassion and empathy, women’s moral judgments are closely tied to their emotions and firstly to compassion (Mael, 283). In her play Susan Glaspell used the examples of Mrs. Peters and Mrs. Hale, who empathically understood Minnie Wright’s decision, to prove that she supported this idea.
It is definitely the truth that “the law is the law” and the crimes are to be punished by law (Glaspell). In order to confirm this, it is necessary to pay attention that Glaspell nd the fact that these words were put into Mrs. Peters’ mouth, as in her speech she told: “The law has got to punish crimes!” (Glaspell). Regardless of this conviction, Susan Gospel showed that the moral can differ because the notion of a crime can be ambiguous. One can regard the results, which are “laying on the surface”, as the crime; another one will look deeply to find out the reasons, which compelled the criminal. As a result, according to female arguments the events or deeds, which pushed a woman to kill her husband, were to be regarded as a crime. The systematic unfair attitude and humiliation of a person, which preceded the murder, should be regarded as a crime. Mrs. Hale stated in the play that they all could help Minnie to avoid her loneliness, and mostly the sufferings of the women lead to the negative outcome; if her husband and her neighbors were more attentive nothing would have happened. “That was a crime! Who is going to punish that?” - are Mrs. Hale’s words which prove it (Glaspell). From a certain point of view, the behavior of Mr. Wright can be also considered a crime because after their marriage he has made his wife unhappy, childless woman. If Minnie was full of joy and innocence before their life together, this “hard man” has killed that nice young girl by his attitude (Glaspell).
Consequently, the life lesson taught by Susan Glaspell is very useful for all genders and situations. Regardless the fact that in nowadays society women have much more rights than they had in the previous century, it is essential not to forget that the moral and the thoughts of people differ. Though I do not encourage forgiving those who killed or committed other crimes in the outbursts of aggression, it is definitely worth to search for the reasons, which pushed the person to commit a crime and find out what drove him or her. Everyone should remember that the easiest decision is not always the right one and before following your moral beliefs it is essential to recollect that it is of human nature to make mistakes.