Trifles by Susan Keating Glaspell Mention the word feminist and most people think of the modern women’s movement. Long before the bra burning of the 60’s, however, writers were writing about the lives and concerns of women living in a male dominated society. Susan Glaspell’s play, Trifles , was written in 1916, long before the modern women’s movement began. Her story reveals, through Glaspell’s use of formal literary proprieties, the role that women are expected to play in society, and the harm that it brings not only the women, but the men as well. Character names are important in Trifles. Two characters who are never seen, John and Minnie Wright, provide the inciting incident for the play. The name “Wright” plays off the social stereotype of women seeking” Mr. Right,” so they also represent the roles of men and women in the larger society. Minnie’s name has a double significance, “Minnie” being “mini” or “minimized,” which was descriptive of her relationship with John and in general of women’s relationship with men. The taking of the husband’s name is also important in the story. Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters are not given first names. The role that society has cast them in is one that is defined by their husbands. Mrs. Peters, who is married to the sheriff, is viewed in those terms, not as an individual. The county attorney even says “for that matter a sheriff’s wife is married to the law” (Glaspell ..). Mrs. Peters herself tries to fulfill that role, saying “Mrs. Hale, the law is the law” (Glaspell ..). She tries to reinforce that identity until she is faced with the brutality of what John Wright did to Minnie. She says “I know what stillness is. The law has got to punish crime, Mrs. Hale” (Glaspell ..). The difference is that she is talking about the crime committed against Minnie, not the murder. The best example of the importance of names, especially married names, is the image of Minnie Foster. “I hear she used to wear pretty clothes and be lively when she was Minnie Foster . . .” Mrs. Hale says (Glaspell..). She talks about Minnie again on page ..: “I wish you’d seen Minnie Foster when she wore a white dress with blue ribbons and stood up there in the choir and sang” (Glaspell..). The image of Minnie Foster is used to show, by contrast, what John Wright … … middle of paper … …g when she replies to the county attorney’s question about the quilt, saying “we call it —knot it, Mr. Henderson” (Glaspell ..). The title, Trifles, is itself a reflection of how men view women. A “trifle” is something that is small, of no consequence. Mr. Hale says that “women are used to worrying over trifles” (Glaspell ..). The irony of the story is that while the men are running around looking for “clues,” the women have discovered the key to the mystery among what the men look at as only silly women’s work. The feminist agenda of Trifles is not meant to be subtle. Glaspell uses the formal elements in the play to convey the feminist theme. The title, the character names, and the metaphors all work together to paint not only a picture of Minnie’s life with John, but by extension, the lives of all women who live oppressed under male domination. Trifles is not just a reflection, however. It is also a call for women to use their perceived powerlessness as a tool to manipulate the system, and a warning to men that a system where one segment of the population dominates and oppresses another, cannot and will not be tolerated forever.