Trifles And Suppressed Desires Essay, Research Paper
The play’s Trifles and Suppressed Desires wrap around a central theme of sexual tension between women and men. The characters are in search of life’s meaning and seeking self-definition. In Trifles, ignorance of sexism is exposed as a major theme. The play Suppressed Desires explores new feminist theories between a married couple. Both plays were written in the 1920’s way before the women’s movement began But this traditional way of thinking has surprisingly continued even today and is a very important issue in our society. This is what makes both plays very appealing to us now.
The play Trifles is a true murder mystery by Susan Glaspell. The setting is in a lonely, cold landscape of the Wright’s kitchen, where the action of the play takes place. The kitchen is in disorder with unwashed dishes, a dirty dishtowel and a loaf of bread sitting out. The scene gives the impression of a lonely household with little attention having been paid to cleaning up either recently or ever.
Mrs. Wright is placed in the kitchen in her rocking chair but does not speak during the production. She gives off much information by her expressions used throughout the play. I have read that in the original transcript of the play, the key characters never appear on stage. I believe seeing her gives a major impact to the setting. It helps the audience see the people surrounding the mystery. Even though she does not utter a word, her expressions help tell the story.
The characters enter the room from the outside and are bundled in heavy clothing indicating that it is extremely cold outside. There are three men, Sheriff Peters, who is dressed in a coat and hat. His clothes make him appear to be about middle class. Followed by the County Attorney, Mr. Henderson, who is dressed a little nicer and classier than the other men and the neighbor Mr. Hale. Behind the men are two women. One is Mrs. Hale, the neighbor’s wife who is dressed very homely and Mrs. Peter’s, the Sheriff’s wife, who is dressed very nicely but looks very uncomfortable. The costumes help give the idea of the status of these characters and help declare what they represent. The most distinguishing was Mr. Henderson who looked like he was in authority with his nicer outfit.
Both women stand by the door while the men go over to the stove to warm themselves up. The fact that the two women are behind the men is a way of introducing the fact that women are inferior to the men and are supposed to follow behind their husbands. In the beginning of the play you already see that women are living in a male dominated world. It is seen that the image of women has little value without a man. The women’s identities are obscured by those of their husbands. It is emphasized when the county attorney reminds Mrs. Peters that she is “married to the law” because her husband is the Sheriff. It is seen that women are just a lesser sex compared to men. Women were also seen by having lower intelligence as seen when Mr. Hale says, “Well, women are used to worry over trifles.” In recent times they have been treated as more than just property, but not with the respect they deserve.
When the men leave, the two ladies are left in the kitchen by themselves. Instead of focusing on the men in the case, the play concentrates on the women. They engage in small talk and without even knowing it, they use the tactics that a trained police officer would be using to figure out a mystery. They talk about how the kitchen was left after the murder. Mrs. Peter notices that Mrs. Wright had been knitting a quilt. As the two women are wondering whether she was going to “quilt it or knot it,” the men come down and laugh, making fun of the women. The men have no idea that the women have made a very important discovery. Mrs. Hale resents the men’s attitude and rips out the wrong stitches in the quilt and repairs them. The audience gets the idea the ladies are reacting to the unwarranted female bashing of the men.
The ladies also find another important clue, the dead bird. When the men return the lady’s hide, what they see as evidence of Mrs. Wrights guilt. It is realized at this point that she strangled her husband as retribution for killing her joy, the bird, and years of abuse by her husband. We were left to assume that the ladies will destroy the evidence making it impossible for them to prove that Mrs. Wright killed her husband. The women show us that Mrs. Wright did not deserve to be punished for killing her husband.
The lighting of the play helped to depict a very gloomy atmosphere. The stage seemed very gray and dark. Mrs. Wright was placed in the spot at times for the audience to see her expression and give her more attention because she did not speak during the play. At the end of the play the two women acknowledge her presence and the whole room goes dark except the three women. This helps the audience see the understanding the women have for each other because they are living in this sexiest and domineering environment of men.
The acting in this play was exquisite. Portrayal of Mrs. Wright was done excellently even though she did not speak a word. It is very hard to act without speaking, but this actor did a fantastic job by her presentations. The other two women did an excellent job also. Mrs. Hale seemed very stern and cold but you knew that she had a good heart. Mrs. Peters seemed very timid and did a great job balancing herself with Mrs. Hale. The men also depicted their roles very believably.
In casting the actors of the play, the director’s did a great job. All of the characters seemed believable in the roles they played. When I read some of the script of the original play, Mrs. Hale was supposed to be more of a heavy set woman. I do not think this took away from the production of the play at all. Also, the decision to place Mrs. Wright on stage was a great decision. At first it was a little confusing, but once I had caught on, I thought it contributed a great deal to the effectiveness of the issues of what the play represented.
In the play Suppressed Desires by Susan Glaspell and her husband George Cram Cook, three characters are over psychoanalyzing their actions in a very comedic way. This play takes place at a New York Apartment, which is brightly lighted by a great large window. Modern furniture fills the apartment with many books on shelves, on the floor and on the desk. The apartment is very modern looking which helps give the impression that the people who live there are more of an upper class couple who are up to date with the latest fashions.
At the start of the play Henrietta Brewster and Stephen Brewster are drinking coffee and talking among themselves. It is already seen to the audience that Henrietta has a strong female role in the household. She is not being oppressed by being a woman but by her ideas of psychoanalyses by her husband. The play depicts her analysis of her thoughts of her sister’s dreams in a humorous way. It also shows how she starts driving her husband crazy by her new education in psychoanalytic theories. Both Mabel and Brewster play a joke on Henrietta and make her realize that she must stop over analyzing everything and get on with her life.
The play shows a woman looking for her role in society. She is a strong woman with her own career of becoming a writer, who does not need her husband to represent her in the world. She is her own person with her own views. The play discusses areas of monogamy that would seem wrong at the time the play was written. Mabel is told that she might be in love with Henrietta’s husband Stephen and Henrietta seems all right with the idea even though she still loves her husband very much. Henrietta tells her sister that maybe it is best for her to follow up on her desires becuase their shrink said so. The play seems more like a 1990’s play more than a 1920’s production. Suppressed Desires represents its own idea of women in society, a far different idea from the one in Trifles.
The scenic design of the play helps the audience see the upper class living of the Brewster’s. The play centers around the studio apartment which seems as a symbolic element of the modern elite at the time. The window takes an important element in the ending of the play when Stephen realizing what he wants more out of life. The whole design right down to the lamps gives a great perception to the play. The whole sense of the design makes me think of the up to date fashion of the New York lifestyle.
The costumes of all three characters were a great expression on the class and fashion ideas of the characters. Stephen wore a very rich looking outfit that was specifically light colored in a shade of tan and yellow. Henrietta and Mabel both wore very long and eloquent dresses. Mabel wore more of a light colored outfit that seemed to go with Stephen’s outfit better. Henrietta on the other hand wore more darker shades that seemed to go against the other outfit’s being worn by her sister and husband but it did not clash with the other colors. All the costumes were great and universal to the time period and too now.
Lighting in the studio apartment was very bright. The only time lighting played a major role was during the beginning of the second episode when a spotlight was placed on a very thicke book by Freud. It was very humorous and brilliantly done.
Acting in the play was done superbly. Even my mother was commenting on the brilliant performance by the actors. Henrietta Brewster was portrayed excellently. I think the fact that the directors placed a red head in the role made it even more believable. Not that I am stereotyping red heads, I am a red head myself. The character just seemed to have so much flare. Mabel was very adorable in her actions and humor. Stephen was superb. I thought his character was the best portrayed through the whole production. His voice and gestures were excellent. The director’s did a fantastic job casting each of these actors in their roles.
Trifles and Suppressed Desires goes from a very intense drama to laugh out loud humor. They both express the views and ideas of women at the time. Trifles expressed more of a drastic role that women are expected to play in society and the harm that it brings not only to the women but to the men as well. Suppressed Desires shows a wife obsessed with psychoanalyses and shows how it drives her husband crazy. Both plays center around women and their search to define themselves. The characters demonstrate an awareness of the way their genders place them in society.