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Comparison Between Charlotte Perkins “the Yellow Wallpaper” and Susan Glaspell’s “Trifles”

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Funk musician George Clinton once observed, “Fish don’t know it’s wet.” Although it often goes unnoticed, culture engulfs us, influencing the decisions of our daily lives. Jobs, family backgrounds, religious beliefs—these are the forces that shape and define us

For some, culture provides inspiration; for others, though, it causes suffocation. Those of us who don’t get what we need from our environment fail to thrive. For some, like the main characters in Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “Yellow Wallpaper” and Susan Glaspell’s Trifles, culture becomes a trap.

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A clear example of unfair treatment and diminishing the efforts of women can be found in Trifles. It is obvious what men think about them. “Well, women are used to worrying over trifles” (1158). This particular line really sets the tone for how women are viewed and and the type of treatment they receive. Every little thing they do, they do with a purpose, they maintain the household, take care of their husbands but men see it as little things that do not matter

They are disrespected and looked down upon for not fulfilling certain duties while men overlook what the purpose for it was in the first place. Gilman also conveys the negative treatment and impact it these roles have. Even a woman’s mental health was not seen as important enough to pay attention to. There is a beautiful shaded lane that runs down there from the arbors, but John has cautioned me not to give way to fancy in the least. He says that with my imaginative power and habit of story-making, a nervous weakness like mine is sure to lead to all manner of excited fancies, and that I ought to use my will and good sense to check the tendency. So I try. (529) The main character’s mental issues are diminished simply because she is a woman. Men see them as highly emotional and irrational and dismiss their feelings based on that.

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The playwright constructs the play out of small gestures just as the women come up with their theories by connecting trifles to explain the crime. The imprisonment of the woman who intern imprisons a bird is allegorical of the chain that exists in the system. Bigsby (25), states that the play “works by understatement.” According to Greene, the idea of freedom from oppressive traditional female responsibilities and roles form a common bond between Gilman and her female character in the story. The Yellow Wallpaper is supposed to represent the society as it is for the woman, and that is the reason why Gilman centers her writings on the theme of escape (Gilman Para. 3). According to Giele, the wife in the Play “Trifles” has devoted much of her thoughts into planning how she can get freedom (49) and so is Glaspell who wants to escape the gender traditions and the male-dominated society by forming a unity of women to defend a fellow woman against oppressive men

Giele concludes by asserting that the “Yellow Wallpaper” is one of many short stories by Gilman, where she presents characters trying to escape from conditions set by society (35).

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In summary, another tragedy which could’ve been avoided if John didn’t subjugate his wife into isolation. Both Tragedies occur due to Subjugation, isolation and disrespect. Both Gilman and Glaspell illustrate the consequences of subjugation through isolation and disrespect. Similarly, neither women had anyone to talk to besides for themselves in their minds due to isolation. They were both treated with disrespect which caused insanity because they couldn’t do anything about it due to subjugation. In conclusion only negativity is derived from subjugation, isolation and disrespect.

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Hocham, Barbara. The Reading Habit and “The Yellow Wallpaper.” London: Duke University Press, 2002.

Holstein, Suzy. Silent Justice in a Different Key: Glaspell’s Trifles. The Midwest Quarterly 44 (2003): 282-290.

Perkins, Charlotte. The Yellow Wallpaper. New York: Dover Publications, 1982.

Mael, Phyllis. Trifles: The Path to Sisterhood. Literature/Film Quarterly17 (1989): 281-84.

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