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But the oppression of women displayed within the play goes even further. The male dominated society does not just lock women into lonely lives and leave them dependent on their husbands.Those very men also fail to recognize their role in oppressing the women. As a result, the men belittle the women, mocking their character, intelligence, and subservience. The men laugh at the women for their emphasis on “trifles,” the small needs of housekeeping and comfort, even when those things are all the men allow the women to have. The men have not only oppressed the women, they also blame the women for enjoying the only things their oppression allows them to have.At the beginning of the play, the women too seem to accept the gender roles that oppress themas something of a natural world order. However, as the play progresses, Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters come to recognize that, as women, they are being oppressed (or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that they come to acknowledge what they already secretly recognized). In Minnie’s dead bird – a bird strangled by her husband – they see their own strangled hopes, perhaps even their own strangled lives. And in this joint recognition they find a connection between themselves and with other women, and begin, in their own quiet yet profound way, to rebel.The Blindness of Men:As described in the theme on the Social Oppression of Women, Trifles’use of gender roles establishes the men in the sphere of work and influence and the women in the sphere of the home and trifling concerns. Yet, at the same time, the title of the play highlights the trifling concerns that the men mock, and in doing so emphasizes that the “trifles” that the men overlook because they are feminine concerns are in fact crucially important. Ironically, it is these“trifles” that lead the women to uncover true evidence concerning the crime, while the men areunsuccessful in finding a motive during their search of the Wrights’ house.
The importance of the trifles demonstrates the way that the men, in their power and self-importance, completely overlook the importance of women and their domestic activities. It shows how that self-importance causes the men to overlook the very thing they are searching for, and how that arrogant blindness to the lives of women weakens the men in ways they can’t even recognize.Gender Allegiance vs. Legal Duty:Mrs. Haleand Mrs. Petersare torn between their loyalty to another woman – a loyalty born of their shared experience of social oppression – and their duty to obey the law and present the evidence they uncover. The men in the play stress the importance of legal duty, particularly reminding the sherif’s wife Mrs. Peters, that she is, for all intents and purposes, “married to thelaw.” Responsibility to the law is thereby equated to responsibility to one’s husband.