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A Close Reading of "Trifles"

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Courtney L.
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  1. Introduction
  2. Unappreciative attitude towards women
  3. Men believing women only worry over 'trifles'........
  4. Conclusion

When reading any work of literature, one can miss many of the work's underlying aspects simply by not reading it carefully enough. A thorough and close reading of a work should yield much more satisfying results?the reader should understand themes and ideas that were important to the author. In order to achieve this type of reading, a reader should not take what is written purely at its surface value. One must learn to read deeper by analyzing a text and employing some background information of the author. By applying a close reading to the play ?Trifles? by Susan Glaspell, the theme of men's lack of appreciation for women is obvious.

First, to better understand ?Trifles,? some background information on Susan Glaspell is necessary. Glaspell was definitely known to be a feminist, and many also acknowledged that she did not, ?? [like] to feel controlled or delimited? (Ozieblo). She refused to be under the control of men; and since she was an active writer in the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century, this type of behavior went against the grain. Her personality comes through in her writing, as is the case with ?Trifles.? A major theme that can be found within ?Trifles? is the unappreciative attitude of men towards women, which Glaspell would have despised. By reading several passages in her play closely, we can see this theme emerge.

During one part of the play, the county attorney and sheriff (Mr. Peters) along with Mr. Hale are commenting on the state of Mrs. Wright's kitchen. They complain of the kitchen being an absolute mess, with jobs only half completed. The county attorney states that Mrs. Wright was, ?Not much of a housekeeper ?? because of her disorganized kitchen (Glaspell 1970). To this statement, the reader is told Mrs. Hale replies ?stiffly? that, ?There's a great deal of work to be done on a farm? (Glaspell 1970). Mrs. Hale's understanding of life on a farm for a wife creates some sympathy within her; Mrs. Wright, a farm wife like herself, is being criticized of not keeping the house clean enough, as if her job was very simple. Mrs. Hale understands this because she must complete many of the same tasks. She also states later on that she would, ??hate to have men coming into [her] kitchen, snooping around and criticizing? (Glaspell 1971). Just this simple statement by the county attorney demonstrates a lack of appreciation for women and their work.

[...] Peters brings up the fruit, her husband comments, can you beat the women! Held for murder and worryin' about her preserves? (Glaspell 1970). Mr. Hale later adds, women are used to worrying over trifles? (Glaspell 1970). Mr. Peters' and Mr. Hale's comments reveal their internal beliefs; they feel Mrs. Wright should not be worried about her fruit because she is held for murder. To them, this is more of a concern, and it is ridiculous for her to be worried about something so inane as her preserves. [...]


[...] This, in turn leads to the obscuring of important evidence. Overall, a deeper reading of a few seemingly simple passages evokes a greater understanding of the entire work and what Glaspell was trying to convey. Works Cited Glaspell, Susan. "Trifles." The Norton Anthology of American Literature. Ed. Nina Baym. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc Print. Ozieblo, Barbara. "About Susan Glaspell." Susan Glaspell Society. [...]

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