Saturday, November 10, 2012

Susan's Contribution in the 19th Century

In "Trifles," Susan Glaspell describes ordinary people living ordinary lives. This serves as a basis for defining "Trifles" as a work of realism. To further define her work in “Trifles” I would say it stands out as an early example of feminist literature, because it depicts the plight of women and their subordination.

In the nineteenth century, Susan Glaspell was witness to the Women’s Right Movement and in 1920 she lived amidst the Nineteenth Amendment passage which gives women the right to vote. Yet, even the passage does not immediately give women the universal right to serve on juries. (Ritter , 143) So, Susan lives through this era using her voice in “Trifles” to get the attention of her readers of the unjust world around her.

By Glaspell participating in the canon of literature and bringing attention to the female issue of subordination, she is challenging and demanding to speak in “masculine” terms, as literature was dominated by males in this era. According to Judith Fetterley, “American Literature is male. Our literature neither leaves women alone nor allows them to participate” (Fetterley, 561). Glaspell shatters this. She is participating in a genre of art that was viewed as predominantly male. Also, she not only gave her female characters a participatory role, they had the most important role, while the men were secondary and almost needless.

In some ways, the title of the short story better indicates Glaspell’s point.  The title of the story is a symbol itself. Trifle: Something of little importance or value. (Bolander, 245) Many items are referred to as "trifles" in this story. Trifles symbolize to the men everything that women think are important. In essence, women are "trifles." Glaspell accomplishes her goal when she writes this story to dispel this atrocity and shed light to the injustice that women live through in the 19th Century. To this day, “Trifles” is a well-known story being read by millions of women and men worldwide and is considered to be the opposite of its title’s meaning.

Works Cited:

Ritter, Gretchen.  “Jury Service and Women’s Citizenship before and after the Nineteenth Amendment”. Law and History Review 20.3 (2002): 75 pars. 4 Mar. 2010.  

Fetterley, Judith. "On the Politics of Literature."Literary Theory: An Anthology. 2nd ed. Ed. Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan. Malden: Blackwell, 2004. 561-579.

Bolander, Donald. “The New Webster’s Dictionary.” Connecticut: Lexicon Publications, Inc. 1993. Print.