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Blurred Boundaries in Susan Glaspell’s Trifles

Blurred Boundaries in Trifles

In her landmark feminist play, “Trifles,” Susan Glaspell offers a peek at the complicated political and social systems that both silenced and divided women during their struggle for equality with men. In this simple but highly symbolic tale, a farmer’s wife, Minnie Wright, is accused of strangling her husband to death. The county attorney, the sheriff, a local farmer, the sheriff’s wife and the farmer’s wife visit Minnie’s farm house. As the men “look for clues,” the women survey Minnie’s domestic environment. While the men scoff at the women’s interest in what they call “trifles,” the women discover Minnie’s strangled bird to realize that Minnie’s husband had killed the bird and Minnie had, in turn, killed him. They bond in acknowledgment that women “all go through the same things–it’s all just different kind of the same thing” (1076). As their horror builds and the women unravel the murder, they agree to cooperate with one another, conspiring to protect Minnie against the men by hiding the incriminating “evidence.”

Women’s slow reluctance to cooperate across class even in the face of male oppression, as depicted in Glaspell’s play, symbolizes the difficulty women had in creating a united “cross class sisterhood” when struggling for suffrage during the Gilded Age. This class conflict was exacerbated by the socio-economic dynamics of the day. Middle class women often employed working class women in their homes as servants. Employing women with hypothetically oppressive wages in their “private lives,” while at the same time fighting for the economic freedom of all women in their “public lives” placed middle class women in a hypocritical bind. As historian Lois Banner reports, “In the 1900s and 1910s there was an outpouring of writings on the so-called servant problem–the shortage of women willing to work as cooks and maids. . . .It was not simply that they [servants] were expected to be paid long hours and were not well paid; they were subject to the whims and status anxieties of their mistresses” (52). The control that middle class women reportedly bestowed upon their domestic laborers extended into the larger picture; much of middle class club work focused on the “reform” of working class women. The imposition of middle class values onto working class and black women’s lives alienated these women–making the feelings of sisterhood necessary for solidarity, nearly impossible. As historian Nancy Hewitt explains, “When ‘true women’ [i.

The Scarlet Letter: The Book vs. the Movie

The Scarlet Letter: The Book vs. the Movie

Demi Moore’s portrayal of Hester in the movie The Scarlet Letter proved her worth as a feminist actress, which led her to other, more modern female empowerment roles ranging from Striptease to GI Jane. But in the moviemakers ‘attempt to give the story what they might think is a little modern flavor, they barbarously misconstrued the theme, and thus the importance, of a timeless story. In the novel, there can be little doubt that Hester is a strong person, but the movie made her out to be a martyr for women’s rights. The female empowerment theme of the movie also inevitably led to the characterization of Christians and their ethics as tyrannical and oppressive because the feminist perspective of Christianity is exactly that. However, the novel whole heartily agreed with Christianity and its conception of sin, while it questioned the nature and relation of sin and humanity.

The character of the two main characters in terms of gender was oddly reversed in the movie, which clearly was done to appeal to the feminist audience. The movie added countless scenes to prove Hester was as capable as any man at running a household, especially in the first half of the movie. In the novel, she did live by herself and did support herself and her child. But this was to assert her strength as an individual. Instead of questioning her individuality, the movie emphasized her strength as a woman. In three separate scenes, another character questioned her ability as a woman doing manly things and in all three she replied and proved that she could. The first was at the dinner table of the Governor, where she asserted that she would find a place of her own and live by herself. The secon…

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…rt of being human and perfection is unattainable, hence the faith and hope that God will save that Christian through grace alone. The film on the other hand is a constant bombardment of one-sided criticisms based on what those non-Christian critics believe to be Christian ethics. To these critics I offer this definition of Christian: It means “Christ like.” If they were versed in Chris’s actions and teachings at all, they would know that most of the supposed Christian ethics in the film were not Christian at all. He did not treat anyone as an outcast. He never persecuted anyone because of who that person’s mother, father, or people were. And He was never vengeful. The movie typified the normal, ignorant criticism of Christians by feminists in movies today.

Works Cited:

Hawthorne, Nathaniel. The Scarlet Letter. 1850. New York: The Modern Library, 2000.

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