Discussion Question 2
“Trifles” is a play by Susan Glaspell that was written in 1916. The play tells the story of a murder investigation in a midwestern farmhouse (Glaspell). It explores the themes of gender roles and the treatment of women. The central focus of the play is Mrs. Wright. However, Mrs. Wright never appears on stage herself. I think keeping the central character off the stage is effective because it creates a sense of mystery and gender dynamics and allows the author to highlight other crucial themes.
Keeping Mrs. Wright off the stage creates a sense of mystery. The mystery leaves the audience wondering who Mrs. Wright is and what she is like. The author has put her on the subject of a murder investigation, yet she does not appear on the stage. This heightens the mystery in the play keeping the audience glued to find out what happened to her.
Moreover, the absence of Mrs. Wright on the stage allows other characters to fill in the gaps and create their interpretations of who she is and what motivated her to commit the murder. I think this is brilliant because it promotes gender dynamics. We can see the perspective other characters view Mrs. Wright (Glaspell). For example, the male characters are dismissive of the women’s opinions and assumptions about Mrs. Wright, while the women can pick up on subtle clues and make connections that the men miss.
Furthermore, keeping Mrs. Wright off the stage allowed the author to highlight other crucial themes about the treatment of women and their place in society. Thus, the author presented the situation from a more abstract and universal perspective rather than going into the specifics of Mrs. Wright's character and situation. As a result, the play is more relatable and thought-provoking for audiences, who can see themselves in the situation and consider the broader implications of the themes explored.
Glaspell, Susan “Trifles”. The Compact Bedford Introduction to Literature, edited by Michael Meyer and D Quentin Miller, 12th ed., Bedford/St. Martin’s 2020, pp. 976-982