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July 19, 2013

Essay on Trifles and Doll House

Trifles and Doll House

The theme of crime in both Susan Glaspell’s “Trifles" and Ibsen’s “A Doll House” runs thorough out the story line of these plays. In both the plays, husbands are murdered by their wives highlighting the injustice of the law. Coupled with the gender discrimination, these plays foreground the conflict between men and women and are highly critical of traditionally assigned gender roles.
The plot of Trifles is said to be loosely based on the murder of John Hossack. The play was initially entitled “Jury of Her Peers” and serves to highlight the poor conditions of women in 19th century.  To make the problems of women even more pronounced, Glaspell gets John Wright, a domineering husband, killed off. Consequently, the blame is shifted on the wife of John Wright. The County Attorney and the Sheriff probes into the case but they fail to come up with any evidence that hints at John Wright’s wife involvement in the murder. In order to collect the evidence of murder, they reach Mrs. Wright’s house. With them they bring two women, Mrs. Hale, Mr. Hale's wife and a neighbor to the Wright's, and Mrs. Peters, the sheriff's wife.
"Trifles" highlights the tangible dismissal of the women. If women were not just demoted to running the farm, then possibly they would not opt to kill their husbands in a bid to bring some peace and order into their lives.
Trifles can be analyzed as an example of early feminist drama.  Two female characters', Mrs. Peters and Mrs. Hale's, displays a tendency to feel sorry for the murder of victim’s wife, Minnie. On the other hand, the men are characterized by their cold attitude and emotionless investigation of material facts. The women understand the motives of crime and find the canary with its neck wrung, that is to say, killing in the same manner as the deceased John Wright. It leads them to conclude that Minnie was actually the murderer and they begin to empathize with her predicament. Quite glaringly, the caged bird symbolizes the wife. Bird was a common symbol used to describe the role of women in the society. The plot ends with two women hiding away the evidence against Minnie.(Susan, 2007)
The male characters are clouded by prejudice and ignorance of important information and debunk it as mere “"trifles" that women deal in the search of the barn and the bedroom, whereas men search through the entire house except for the kitchen when a woman is usually in charge.  An important line, spoken by the sheriff said, the kitchen, "Nothing here but kitchen things," highlights the tendency of men to overlook the important areas for women. Men despise the domestic sphere, even some of the items come into contempt.
In the end the men despite being unable to find concrete evidence are going to convict Mrs. Wright anyway. However the women have found the evidence and know what happened. They conclude that her husband treated her quite badly and wildly and she had no other option to bring sanity to her life.  Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters feel bad because they never visited Mrs. Wright and they both knew from experience how lonely it can be for a woman who has no children. The men render unable to find it because they cannot see through the problems that a woman undergoes in an extremely patriarchal society.
  On the other hand, A Doll House brings to light the injustice of law and the limitations it places on individuals in the society. Even in its introductory paragraphs, the crime is reported. Mrs. Linde enters the doll house and Nora tells her about “it” but immediately says that “Torvald mustn’t hear” (Tornqvist, 1995). Ibsen utilizes the early gambit of crime to instantly create a secret between Nora and her husband that will eventually result in their separation.
In the play A Doll’s House, Henrik Ibsen uses crime mainly as a plot progression. If there were no crime, the play would be less significant. Nora’s forgery leads to a secret that she keeps from her husband that leads to his embarrassment at being saved by a woman that leads to her leaving. Ibsen raises one major concern building on the theme of crime that the law can be unjust as well.
Mrs. Linde establishes the law as soon as the idea of Nora borrowing money crops up, “A wife can’t borrow money without her husband’s consent” (Perrine 877). This seems wrong enough by itself…In addition, Nora’s only reason to forge the signature was to save her husband’s life, and for it she was blackmailed by Krogstad and downtrodden by society’s standards.
In A Doll’s House, Ibsen depicts a dreary picture of the scapegoat-like role of role in all socio-economic classes. On the whole, the female characters in the play honor Nora’s assertion that there are hundreds and thousands of women who are denied the equal status with women.
Mrs Linde is forced to abandon Krogstad, her true but penniless love to marry a rich man and support her mother and two brothers. The nanny had to abandon her own child to support herself by working as Nora’s (and then as Nora’s children’s) caretaker. As she tells Nora, the nanny considers herself lucky to have found the job, since she was “a poor girl who’d been led astray.”Though Nora is economically privileged as compared to other female characters but her economic, by no means, assuage her difficulties in life. Torvald continues to be the dominant partner. All in all, both novels raise the feminist question by making crime a central theme to the stories.
In A Doll’s House however, Torvald and Nora comes into relationship when he finds out about her crime through Krogstad’s blackmail. She not only is castigated outwardly through Torvald, but inwardly as well, “she views herself as vile, sinister, and immoral because of her guilt” (Roberts, 1991).

Tornqvist, Egil,(1995) “Ibsen, a doll house” Cambridge University Press
Glaspell, Susan (2007) “Trifles” the University of Virginia
Roberts, Edgar (1991) “Writing themes about literature” Prentice Hall


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