Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Literary Advocacy in Susan Glaspell's Play "Trifles"


by Mickey Hunt
While Glaspell’s frequently performed 1916 play Trifles as literary advocacy conveys a valid message within its historical period, and raises issues regarding the legal system, it does so at the cost of casting men as being arrogant, foolish, and bound to a certain narrow set of interests, a negative stereotype with potential to create its own injustice.
Read in full HERE.  (2323 words)


  1. The photograph of the lighthouse and caretaker house was taken by me on the tip of Cape Cod, east of Provincetown, MASS, the city where Glaspell wrote and performed her play.

  2. Deleted material: Arthur Conan Doyle creator of Sherlock Holmes would be ashamed of Glaspell’s men. William Shakespeare, the creator of dynamic, powerful female characters, would see the bitter comic relief in Glaspell’s men. Unlike the fictional suspect, who was childless, Mrs. Hossack was the mother of nine children. She was accused of murdering her husband not with a rope but an ax.

  3. What might Mrs. Wright’s bird be in my imaginary play, the bird Mr. Wright killed by breaking its neck? Hint: the prenatal baby of the bus driver, the baby his feminist wife aborted before she divorced him.

  4. The idea for the imaginary play, which has the working title of Smells, is that a male bus driver has been accused of sabotaging the charter bus he has been taking to a march for abortion rights in Washington, DC. The bus is full of mostly female abortion activists, let’s say from Asheville, North Carolina. The bus is broken down on the side of the road on a pass across the forested Appalachian mountains between North Carolina and Virginia. The bus driver ran away and presumably caught a ride. It is winter, but not too cold.

    On the scene, finally, is the owner of the charter company with a mechanic, and a deputy sheriff. The owner says he has another bus on the way, but it will take two hours, so in the meantime he and the mechanic are investigating to see if they can find out what the problem with the bus is, and they are also curious as to what the driver’s motive was. The activists are bitchy, and condescending to the men. They’ve called the press and issued a nasty statement about the driver. They also propose all kinds of lofty ideas for the breakdown of the bus, which they have dubbed “Minnie. They think it’s corporate corruption and greed, engineering defects, lack of proper maintenance for the bus, the hatred of patriarchal men for women, etc. and they also wonder about the driver’s personal motive.

    As the woman postulate and expound upon their ideas, the men are checking out the engine and the driver’s seat, and a picture emerges. The driver had left a letter that told he was raised by two lesbians who eventually split up. He never knew who his real dad was. When he got married, his wife aborted his one and only child and then divorced him. The preborn baby he thought was a boy, and when he died, his soul died. The men tacitly agree not to share this information with the abortion rights activitists. During the investigation, the activists keep smelling something, and they laugh and comment upon how bad men stink. This theme runs through the play. At the end of the play the leader of the group is talking with the owner of the charter company as the replacement bus arrives and the women troop aboard. The mechanic accidently lets a noisy fart and the feminist leader says, “Oh, so it’s not only general body order, its flatulence.” Seeing the pained look on the mechanic’s face she says, “Or if that’s too complicated a word, what do you call it?”

    The owner says, “We call it gas, ma’am. It’s gas,” which of course is a parody of the last line of Trifles and a hint to how the bus driver sabotaged the bus, simply by letting it run out of fuel.

  5. I took the photo with an inexpensive Nikon Coolpix and then deepened the color saturation just a bit.

  6. I took the photo with an inexpensive Nikon Coolpix and then deepened the color saturation just a bit.