Monday, March 7, 2016

Trifles by Susan Glaspell (1916) Reflections on the Play . .

Trifles by Susan Glaspell (1916)  


Reflection by Rachael Orbach


The action in the play is separated into the men’s and women’s roles.  The women are relegated to the kitchen and to the sewing room.  There is a lot of work to be done, as the play was written in 1916, women’s liberation has not made it to this country community.  The men work outside the home, and the women work to make the home run. There isn’t electricity yet, so there is a lot of work to be done by hand.   Fruit has to be canned, quilts sewn by hand, there is no indoor plumbing.


The conflict is that the women’s husband has been strangled by a rope in the middle of the night.  The sheriff has been called in to investigate the crime. The county attorney comes with the sheriff, who brings his  wife, Mrs. Peters and the person who found the body and his wife, Mrs. Hale.   Mr. Hale had come to the house to see about putting in a party line telephone system. The Mrs. Wright had said that someone had strangled her husband, John Wright in the middle of the night, without waking her up.


The wives of the two men, have come to take some things to the wife who is sitting in jail.  They are very formal with each other, using their last names, Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters.  They go and take some clothes, and her quilting.  The turning point comes when the women find the quilt that the wife has been working on, a Log Cabin quilt.  They comment about how the stitches are poorly sewn.  This is unusual because Log Cabin is a very simple quilt that consists of different sizes of fabric sewn together, in a log pattern.  It is very easy to do and can use up just about any scraps of fabric that are laying around.  I’ve included a Log Cabin pot holder that I made, it took about 5 hours of sewing, not much compared to other intricate patterns.  


The clue that the women first  find, is a bird cage. They compare Minnie to the bird, and they decide to take the quilt to Minnie to have something to do.  As they look for more patches and thread the find the box, they find the dead canary in a pretty box.    It seems that the women see that the quilt has begun to be finished, but the sewing is not neat and tidy.   There are a few ways to finish a quilt. One is to quilt it, that is running lines in a certain pattern through all the layers of the quilt.  The other way is to knot it.  This is to take certain places of the quilt and tie knots to connect all the layers together.  The women then look at each other and they know that the wife killed the husband.  At that point the sheriff comes back from the upstairs, and he hears the women talking about the knotting.  He doesn’t know that the women were really talking about the rope that killed the husband. He thinks that it is a trifle,  they were talking about, just quilting techniques.  

But the women know better.  

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