What She Said

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"By studying what characters say about each other, you can enhance your understanding of the character being discussed" (Roberts, 67).

            In Trifles, we learn about Minnie Foster completely through the descriptions of others.  The men scoff at her housekeeping ability and the women reminisce about her lost joy.  The men's comments serve to nudge the reader towards sympathy for Minnie, and the women's comments expose a common sense of oppression among the gender.  All of these feelings and descriptions paint our perception of the protagonist.  In my opinion, Susan Glaspell uses this technique of character revelation expertly, but one should still ask herself/himself why Glaspell chose this method.  What circumstances make learning about the character through third-party descriptions favorable? 

            I think that in this instance it was necessary to know the character as Glaspell wanted the character to be known.  This is not always the case.  In Gone with the Wind, for example, whether the reader loves Scarlett O'Hara or hates her is irrelevant.  The circumstances remain rigidly factual (so far as a fictional world can be factual).  However, in Trifles, the reader has to believe that Minnie has been oppressed, that something has been taken from her and she has been spiritually killed.  If the reader doesn't believe this, the play is about a senseless murder, a woman has simply gone mad, no one knows why, and whoops, there goes her husband.  Or perhaps the reader won't have any reason to believe that Minnie committed the murder, and then we're reading a one act play about a random murderer killing Mr. Wright, but with no known motive.  Having Minnie complain about emotional abuse to the other characters is a dicey method to employ.  After all, which one of us likes to hear someone complain about his or her life?  There's always a small part of us saying, "Oh, come on, it's not as bad as all that."  Learning about this women through other characters who had no personal relationship with Minnie casts the situation in a nearly glaring light: Yes, Mr. Wright was a jerk, yes Minnie was oppressed, yes Minnie committed the murder, and yes we as readers and human beings can understand why and, frighteningly, practically justify it.     



2 Comments

Jessica Orlowski said:

... Or WAS it that bad? I always like to take stories from mouths of third parties with a grain of salt. You have to consider the nature of women. We are socialites. MOST of us like to gossip. I wonder if this was the case with the women in the play, and I wonder how bad Minnie's situation actually was.

Josie Rush said:

I'd say that the feeling of solidarity was strong enough to move the women to hide the evidence of murder. Had it been idle gossip, when the bird was found, the women would've said something along the lines of, "That Minnie was craaaazy," and called for the men. I think if we assume that Minnie committed the murder (and the author seems to want us to), then we have to accept there was something that made her snap.

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