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For this assignment, you will be reading and analyzing the Susan Glaspell play, Trifles.
As you read the play you will notice that its format is quite different
from that of a short story or novel. At first, reading the stage
directions, characters’ names and dialogue may feel awkward; but rest
assured that, as you keep reading you will find your rhythm and be able
to follow the story with little difficulty.
Please write an essay of 1000 words or more
discussing the questions below. As always, begin your paper with an
engaging introduction and clear thesis statement, develop each point in
the body of your paper using examples and quotes from the play, and
conclude your paper with a restatement of your thesis and closing
remarks. In addition, be sure to maintain your credibility by including
in-text citations and a reference list correctly formatted in APA style.
- Setting: What is the setting of the play, in terms of the time
period, region and weather? Explain the condition of the house. What
emotional response does the setting evoke in you?
- Characters: Describe the main characters: county attorney George
Henderson, sheriff Henry Peters, neighbor Lewis Hale, Mrs. Hale, and
Mrs. Peters. What do you also know about John and Minnie Wright? Who in
this story do you feel is/are the protagonist(s) and who is/are the
- Plot: Summarize the plot of the play in terms of its narrative
arc (also known a pyramidal pattern): exposition, rising action,
conflict, climax, falling action and resolution/dénouement. What makes
the story suspenseful?
- Stage Directions: Comment on Glaspell’s stage directions. What
information do they reveal that you would have not been able to glean
from the dialogue alone?
- Symbolism: Elaborate on the symbolic meaning of the birdcage, the dead canary, the noose and the items referred to as “trifles.”
- Themes: Remark on the main messages of this play. What is the meaning of the title, Trifles? In your opinion, what is Glaspell saying about gender differences and marriage in this story?
- Genre: Because this is a play, most of the story is told in
dialogue format. Articulate the differences between reading a drama and
reading a short story. Comment, too, on the experience of reading a
drama versus watching it performed by actors.
- Final Thoughts: Trifles is based on a true crime story
that Susan Glaspell reported on as a journalist from 1898-1901. Do some
background research on the actual events (one recommended website is http://www.midnightassassin.com/index.html)
and write about the increasing empathy Glaspell felt toward Margaret
Hossack, the alleged murderess, as Glaspell covered the case. Do you
empathize with Hossack and her fictional counterpart, Minnie Wright? Why
or why not? What overall impact has the play had on you?