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A Critical Analysis of the Portrayal of Women in Susan Glaspell's Trifles - Essay Example

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In her play,Glaspell manipulates ironies and mystery genre to portray women capable of perceiving right and wrong planning accordingly and finally of executing their plans by destabilizing the patriarchy-induced stereotypical notion of women’s frivolity …
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A Critical Analysis of the Portrayal of Women in Susan Glaspells Trifles
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Download file to see previous pages Defying her contemporary feminist authors’ tendency to depict women’s subservience and inferiority as the lingering results of male expectation and male desire to view women as such, Susan Glaspell portrays her female characters - possessing of intelligence sharper than the patriarchy – as quite competent opponents of their male counterparts (Makowsky 35). These women are found to possess a strong sense of affinity and communal feeling among themselves. These affinity and communal feeling of one woman for another seem to evolve from their common fate wrought at the hands of their male counterparts. Though such communal zeal among the women runs throughout the whole play, it is more evident in Mrs. Hale’s speech: “I know how things can be--for women. I tell you, it's queer, Mrs. Peters. We live close together and we live far apart. We all go through the same things--it's all just a different kind of the same thing” (Glaspell, “Trifles”). Indeed in the late 19th century, many female authors like Chopin, Fern and others “wrote about the inequality of the sexes and the inability of women to live their own lives without reliance on men” (Maillakais 3). But in “Trifles”, Susan Glaspell has clearly defied this undertone of portraying a woman as frail, frivolous, and incapable of doing male jobs in a male dominated society. Late 19th century feminist writers’ tendency to portray in this way, though not deliberately intended, ironically perpetuated the legacy of male expectation and perception about women (Makowsky 47-9). Defying the traditional patriarchal assumption that women are both physically and mentally weak and incapable of deciding what is good for them, the sisterhood among Susan’s women rather evolves from their perception of their condition in a society that tends to main their freedom in every step of life. In the drama they appear to be fully aware of the humiliating approach of their male counterparts towards them and eventually they perform actions that ultimately challenge and falsify the male superiority. Filled with trifles or minor details that ultimately take on major significance, Susan’s play creates a clear dichotomy –physical, psychological and social – that separates the male characters from the females. The plot of the play has produced two twists about the female triumph over their male counterparts: first, they discover by investigating into the trifles what the male characters fail. Second, they develop their own moral ground from which they decide to help the murderer. Susan Glaspell has portrayed the women’s triumph mainly in two ways: first, how the male characters in the drama view them; secondly, how they like to view themselves and finally, how they act or behave. In fact, Susan has manipulated the male characters in the play to represent patriarchy, patriarchal expectation and patriarchal notion about women, and generally to develop a woman’s image of how patriarchy perceives them. Indeed, this patriarchy-induced image of a woman is heavily infused with feminine psychophysical inferiority to masculinity. The following dialogue represents the best early 20th century patriarchal conception about a woman: SHERIFF: Well, can you beat the women! Held for murder and worryin' about her preserves. HALE: Well, women are used to worrying over trifles. COUNTY ATTORNEY: And yet, for all their worries, what would we do without the ladies?...Dirty towels!...Not much of a housekeeper, would you say, ladies? (Glaspell, “Trifles”) This dialogue depicts how in the early 20th century men thought of the women in their households. The County Attorney reasons ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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