Gender roles are attitudes that a society links to each sex. They are basically prejudicial descriptions of who men and women are. In todays society, men and women are divided into two stereotypical gender-roles; the feminine code and the masculine code. Men have been described as being insensitive, dominant, strong, rational, aggressive and rude, whereas women have been described as sensitive, weak, emotional, talkative, passive and more polite. In Trifles, women begin a rebellion against a male-dominated society.
As the play progresses, the author tries to show that the omission of the clues found in the kitchen and the complete disregard for women serve as a consequence to solving the case. In the one-act play by Susan Glaspell, the plot, the actions of various characters and the dialogue communicate the authors disapproval of gender-role stereotypes. In the play, the author uses dialogue to convey gender-role stereotypes. From the very beginning of the play, the author presents a patriarchal society through the setting.
According to gender-role stereotypes, women are thought to be domestic and live in their private sphere, in the confinements of the house, specifically the kitchen, the place where the women in the play remain. Men are presumed to live in the public sphere, away from the chores of the house and provide for the family as indicated by the jobs the male characters hold. Very early in the play, Mr. Hale decides to talk to Mr. Wright, before his wife, in order to see if Wright would go in with him on a party telephone.
However, Hale says, I said to Harry that I didnt know as what his wife wanted made much difference to John(Glaspell 376), as if a womens opinion in a patriarchal society would have no effect on Wrights choice. Later on in the play, by asking the question Not much of a housekeeper, would you say, ladies? (378), the County Attorney suggests that women are supposed to know about housekeeping because society comprehends women in that way. Both the County Attorneys and Hales comments about women show the authors disapproval of gender-role stereotypes.
Both characters neglect women and this hampers the chance of solving the case. The actions of various characters also contribute to conveying gender-role stereotypes. At one point in the play, when the County Attorney and the Sheriff are looking for clues, they cannot find anything. The reason for this is that they completely ignore the possibility of finding clues in the kitchen, which is a womans domain based on gender-role stereotypes. In their exchange of dialogue, County Attorney says, I guess well go upstairs first and then out to the barn and around there.
Youre convinced that there was nothing important here nothing that would point to any motive(377). The Sheriff replies by saying, Nothing here but kitchen things(377), which proves that they overlook the clues in the kitchen. Their failure to search the kitchen reveals their belief that no clues could possibly be found in the kitchen. What they do not know is that the women are able to find clues, such as the dead bird in Mrs. Wrights sewing box. Had the men looked in the right place, they would have found the clues that the women found.
By this, one can see that Glaspell disproves of gender stereotypes. She implies that if the men did not base their thoughts on obnoxious descriptions, then they too would have found clues. By the way women are depicted in this story through the actions of various characters and the dialogue, Glaspell states that one should not judge people based on their gender. Gender is but a construct, and it is not innate. In writing this play, Glaspell changes the concept of gender-role stereotypes to show that women should be rebellious against a male-dominated society.