An Interpretation of Trifles by Susan Glaspell Summarize each paragraph of the article?use MLA.The original sentence should be used as the source. Use Two sentences.The original text can be found on Google. Title: Glaspell’s ‘Trifles.’ (interpretation of Susan Glaspell’s play)
Author(s): Judith Kay Russell
Source: The Explicator. 55.2 (Winter 1997): p88. From Literature Resource Center.
Document Type: Article
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On the surface, Susan Glaspell’s one-act play Trifles focuses on the death of an oppressive husband at
the hands of his emotionally abused wife in an isolated and remote farm in the midwest. Beneath the
surface, the collective behaviors of Mrs. Hale, Mrs. Peters, and Mrs. Wright in Glaspell’s play bear strong
resemblance to those of the Fates (Clotho the Spinner, Lachesis the Disposer of Lots, and Atropos the
Cutter of the Thread) in Greek mythology. Although Glaspell brings new vigor to the myth, the attention
given to Mrs. Hale’s resewing the quilt, the change in Mrs. Peters’s perspective on law and justice, and
the rope placed by Mrs. Wright around her husband’s neck are nonetheless grounded in the story of the
Three Sisters who control the fate of men.
Mrs. Hale embodies the qualities of Clotho the Spinner, the sister who spins the thread of life. Mrs. Hale
subtly suggests that Mrs. Wright is not the sole agent in the death of Mr. Wright. On the surface, Mrs.
Hale’s ungrammatical reference to that event, “when they was slipping the rope under his neck” (79), can
be attributed to improper subject and verb agreement, which is not uncommon in certain regional dialects.
However, the use of the plural pronoun and singular verb subtly suggests the involvement of more than
one in a single outcome, and it foreshadows the conspiracy of the three women and their efforts to control
the outcome or the fate of all characters. Furthermore, the information concerning the domestic life of the
Wrights is supplied, or spun, mainly by Mrs. Hale; she describes Mr. Wright as “a hard man,” and, with
her recollections of the young Minnie Foster (now Mrs. Wright) as “kind of like a bird” (82), she
establishes the connection of Mr. Wright’s involvement in the physical death of the canary and spiritual
death of his wife. The condescending manner in which the men joke about the women’s concern
regarding Mrs. Wright’s intention “to quilt or just knot” the quilt evokes a defensive remark from Mrs. Hale
in which she hints that it is unwise to tempt fate; she asserts, “I don’t see as it’s anything to laugh about”
(79-80). Finally, by “just pulling out a stitch or two that’s not sewed very good” and replacing it with her
own stitching (80), Mrs. Hale symbolically claims her position as the person who spins the thread of life.
The second member of the Three Sisters, Lachesis the Disposer of Lots, is personified by Mrs. Peters.
The viability of the thread spun by Mrs. Hale depends on the actions and reactions of Mrs. Peters. To
claim her position as the member of the Fates responsible for assigning destiny, she must abandon
objectivity and move toward subjectivity. Her objectivity is exemplified by her assertion that “the law is the
law” and her view on physical evidence as she informs Mrs. Hale, “I don’t think we ought to touch things”
(79-80). The sight of the dead canary and the recognition that “somebody – wrung – its – neck” marks Mrs.
Peters’s initiation into subjectivity and the sisterhood (83). The discovery of the dead bird awakens Mrs.
Peters’s suppressed childhood memories of rage toward the “boy [who] took a hatchet” and brutally killed
her kitten (83). In her mind, the kitten, Mrs. Wright, and the bird become enmeshed. Mrs. Peters realizes
that the dead bird will be used to stereotype Mrs. Wright as a madwoman who overreacts to “trifles.” At
this point, Mrs. Peters emerges from the shadow of her role as the sheriff’s wife and becomes “married to
the law” (85). Her new concept of law subjectively favors justice over procedure. She claims her position
as the sister who dispenses the lots in life when she moves to hide the bird and thus denies the men
“something to make a story about” (85).
Mrs. Wright represents Atropos the Cutter of the Thread. Symbolically, Mrs. Wright is first linked to
Atropos in Mr. Hale’s description of her “rockin’ back and forth” (73), a motion similar to that made by
cutting with scissors. The connection to Atropos is further established when Mrs. Peters discovers the
dead bird in Mrs. Wright’s sewing box and exclaims, “Why, this isn’t her scissors” (83). Ironically, the dead
canary takes the place of the scissors: The death of the bird is directly tied to the fate of Mr. Wright. In
addition, Mrs. Wright assumes mythical status through her spiritual presence and physical absence from
the stage. Mr. Hale relates that in his questioning of Mrs. Wright, she admits that her husband “died of a
rope round his neck,” but she doesn’t know how it happened because she “didn’t wake up”, she is a
sound sleeper (74-75). Mrs. Wright denies personal involvement in the death of her husband, yet she
acknowledges that he died while she slept beside him in the bed. Mrs. Wright says, “I was on the inside”
(75). Although she may be referring to her routine “inside” position of sleep behind her husband in the bed
placed along the wall, Mrs. Wright’s statement suggests a movement from the outside (her individual
consciousness) to the inside (the collective consciousness of the Fates). Her involvement with the rope of
death is the equivalent of severing the thread of life. She did not spin the thread, nor did she assign the
lot; she merely contributed a part to the whole, and that collective whole becomes greater than the sum of
its parts. For this reason, Mrs. Wright is correct in denying individual knowledge or responsibility in the
death of her husband.
In Trifles, Mrs. Hale weaves the story or describes the circumstances, Mrs. Peters weighs the evidence
and determines the direction of justice, and Mrs. Wright carries out the verdict; although the procedure is
somewhat reversed, the mythic ritual is performed nevertheless. Susan Glaspell’s use of the Fates, or the
Three Sisters, does not weaken her dramatization of women who are oppressed by men. Although some
believe that the power of the Three Sisters rivals that of Zeus, Glaspell reminds her audience that,
regardless of myth or twentieth-century law, it still takes three women to equal one man. That is the
inequality on which she focuses.
– JUDITH KAY RUSSELL, Middle Tennessee State University
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