I wasn't able to make it to Mr. Wann's performance or the discussion following it. I watched the play online and I enjoyed it. The play was written by Susan Glaspell and was performed in 1916. The author was raised in Iowa and received a PhD in philosophy at Drake University. She also was awarded a Pulitzer prize in 1931 for her play Alice's House. She wrote the play for the Provincetown Players to perform. The Provincetown Players was founded by Susan and her husband and was the first modern American theatre company.
In 1916 women were still second class citizens. This time period was the "cult of domesticity". They were not allowed to vote or sit on a jury, and they were expected to stay at home and do the housework. In this time period Sigmund Freud's psychoanalytic perspective was widely accepted and considered to be the best theory regarding people and society.
The play emphasizes the gender differences and the gender roles. The men are only focused on the crime scene and on warming up their hands when they walk into the kitchen. The woman, however, are focused on cleaning up and making sure that everything is in order. In other words, the woman are concerned with what the men consider to be, "trifle". They picked up the quilt and began talking about weather it was meant to be, "quilted or knotted". The men come back into the room and make fun of them. I find it interesting that the men are ridiculing the women for acting so, "domesticated", and, "taking up their time with little things," or trifles. Women have been conditioned, by men, to act like this and to focus solely on the trifle things and on making sure the house is clean, and yet the men have the audacity to ridicule them for it. Another comment earlier in the play was when the sheriff was asking the women what they knew and when they didn't provide any information he said, "ah...loyal to your sex I see,". Had it been a man covering up for a man they never would have said this. I can almost assume that if it had been reversed the man would have been applauded for remaining loyal to his friends. The mindset of the women is also shown when their only concern is how embarrassed Mrs. Wright would be to have men wandering through her house when it was so messy rather than if she is okay in jail or even just the fact that she might be going on trial for murder.
Mrs. Wright did kill Mr. Wright, but because neither character are in the play it is hard to know exactly what occurred or why she may have done that. It is implied in the play that Mr. Wright killed Mrs. Wright's canary. He may not have been physically abusive towards Mrs. Wright, but I think it is probably that he was in some sense emotionally abusive. Mrs. Wright had a very active life prior to being married and she was a singer and her canary, in some senses, represented her joy and passion for singing and when Mr. Wright's murder of the canary symbolizes the absence of joy and liberty in Mrs. Wrights life. These are all possibilities as to why Mrs. Wright may have killed her husband. Her marriage may have been a cage.
The play's title makes sense because a recurrent theme throughout the play is the women's focus on the, "trifles," which are the seemingly unimportant tasks and ideas throughout the play. Only the women focus on the, "trifles," but in the end the trifles are what solve the murder. The play is set in a time period where this marriage and this situation appears very realistic and it brings to light many very important ideas of gender roles and stereotypes, and the role of the homemaker (who is typically a woman). In the actual script it shows that when the men enter the house they are very focused on concrete evidence and observable behaviors, but the women are focused on the unobservable and on what Mrs. Wright may have been going through and thinking.
Overall I enjoyed the play and I thought that it did a great job of emphasizing gender roles and showing that women are important and men often overlook them without thinking.