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Essay on Action, Props, Costumes, and Visual Elements in Trifles

Action, Props, Costumes, and Visual Elements in Trifles

Susan Glaspell’s play, Trifles, shows the importance of staging, gestures, and props to create the proper atmosphere of a play. Without the development of the proper atmosphere through directions from the author, the whole point of the play may be missed. Words definitely do not tell the whole story in Trifles – the dialog only complements the unspoken.

Susan Glaspell tells us her vision of the Wright’s kitchen, where the action of her play “Trifles” takes place, through stage directions. She paints a gloomy picture of this center of activity.

The kitchen is described as being in disorder with unwashed pans under the sink, a dish towel left on the table, a loaf of bread outside the breadbox, and other disarray. This gives the impression of no attention having been paid to cleaning up either recently or usually.

The room has faded wallpaper, an old black stove, an old iron sink with a hand pump and no curtains at the one window. The unpainted table at the center sounds old and utilitarian. The descriptions suggests a very uninviting room with no frills or anything to brighten the area. Nothing frivolous or feminine, like flowers or colorful plates are described as being in the room. The one comfort in the room is an old rocking chair. This conjures up the impression of one lonely person occasionally sitting down to shell beans or string snaps. Is she always working in this room or does she sit and look out the window next to her day dreaming of what might have been?

The characters enter this room through a door at the back of the stage which goes to a shed then to the outside. The Sheriff enters first followed by the County Attorney, later described as…

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…ble in the dialog. It is done through looks and gestures. For example, “Their eyes met a look of growing comprehension, of horror…… Mrs. Hale slips the box under quilt pieces”. They finally carry the evidence out with them. We are left to assume that the ladies will destroy the evidence making it impossible to prove that Mrs. Wright killed her husband.

The ladies make an unspoken decision that Mrs. Wright did not deserve to be punished for killing her husband. In their minds, evidence of his extreme cruelty to his wife negated her guilt.

This play shows the importance of the staging, gestures, and props making the atmosphere of a play. Without the development of these things through directions from the author, the whole point of the play will be missed. The dialog in this play only complements the unspoken. Words definitely do not tell the whole story.

Plot Structure in Susan Glaspell’s Trifles

Plot Structure in Susan Glaspell’s Trifles

The play “Trifles” by Susan Glaspell is a whodunit type of murder mystery. But in this case, the “professionals,” whose job it is to find out what happened, failed in their task. The County Attorney (Mr. Henderson) and the Sheriff (Mr. Peters) attempt to piece together what had transpired on the day when John Wright was murdered. They interviewed Mrs. Hale, Mrs. Peters, and Mr. Hale who told them that Mrs. Wright, John’s wife, had been acting strange when he had found her in the kitchen. After taking in all of this information, they left Mrs. Peters and Mrs. Hale in the kitchen.

Instead of focusing on the men and their quest to solve the case, Glaspell concentrates on the women in the kitchen. It is at this point, when the men leave the kitchen and go upstairs, that the women begin to, perhaps inadvertently, find out for themselves who had killed John Wright. I believe the rising action of this play begins when the men leave the women alone in the kitchen. Without even knowing it, the women are using the tactics that a trained detective would use: asking many questions and making inferences. They engage in small talk and comment on how the kitchen was left after the murder. For example, when Mrs. Peters was looking through the cupboard, she discovered that Mrs. Wright had a bread set. Mrs. Hale then concludes that “she was going to put this in here,” referring to a loaf of bread beside the breadbox. Another example is when Mrs. Peters noticed that Mrs. Wright had been “piecing a quilt.” As the two women are wondering whether she was going to “quilt it or knot it,” the men come down the stairs and overhear them. The Sheriff repeats out loud what he had heard them say and the men all laugh, obviously making fun of the women. This situation is interesting because the men have no idea that the women were actually making valuable conclusions. I think the next line that Mrs. Hale says is very important:

“I don’t know as there’s anything so strange, our takin’ up our time with little things while we’re waiting for them to get the evidence. I don’t see as it’s anything to laugh about.”

This line shows that even the women themselves believe that they are not finding anything of importance.

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