In Isben's A Doll House as in Glaspell's Trifles, the women in the play are seen as
subordinates to their male counterparts. The men believe that the women are not capable
of making difficult decisions, or thinking for themselves. They also fail to give
importance to the women's jobs as homemakers. In the case of Trifles, Mrs. Hale and
Mrs. Peters discourse is seen as insignificant to the murder of Mr. Wright. In A Doll
House, Nora chooses to abandon her duty as a wife and mother to find her own
individuality. The men in both of the plays are responsible for their own fall, their false
presumptions of women and patronizing ways are the main conflicts in the plays.
The women in Trifles are seen as extensions of their husbands and therefore their
husbands assume they can be left alone, as Mr. Hale says, "worrying over trifles." The
play illustrates the life of a woman who has lost her individuality. She has lived isolated
from society and her "hard" husband, who she eventually murders in an attempt to regain
her freedom. Mrs. Wright, in her younger years, wore pretty clothes, sang in the choir,
and had an overall flair for life. After she married Mr. Wright, she lived a detached rural
life in a gloomy house. Mrs. Wright is forced to live the disrespected, subordinate role of
a housewife while her husband makes the money. The men make many troublesome
presumptions of women's roles in society. One was Mrs.Wright's wanting her apron so
she will feel more natural, as if women who were not homemakers were unnatural.
Another was leaving the women alone on the assumption that Mrs.Peters is married to
the law and therefore would obey it. The evidence the men need is in the quilt that Mrs.
Wright was sowing and in the dead bird found in the box. At first, the women are
reluctant to conceal the evidence, but they finally identify with Mrs.Wright and hide the
evidence that would implicate her in the murder of her husband. They too regain their
identity in this meaningful experience.
In A Doll House, Nora, the protagonist, has been treated as a "play thing" all her
life by her father and then her husband, Torvald. She is thought to be fragile and
incapable of resolving any serious problems. The pet names like lark, squirrel, and
songbird further diminish her status. Nora, however, secretly borrows money form
Krogstad to take Torvald away when he is sick. Krogstad eventually exposes Nora's
secret gives her a miracle as well. She sees, for the first time in eight years, that Torvald
has never taken her seriously and no longer loves her. Even after Nora tells him she is
leaving, Torvald says, "Oh, you blind, incompetent child," again reluctant to accept the
fact that she is strong and can persevere. Torvald is unwilling to see that Nora needs to
educate herself and obtain her individuality, he can not do it for her.
Both of the plays, A Doll House and Trifles , come from a feminist perspective.
They deal with the relationships between men and women. The men in both of the plays
view the women as secondary figures who could not understand problems in the real
world. Their conflicts rest on their assumptions of the roles of women. In Trifles, the
women prove to be valuable detectives, and in A Doll House, Nora relinquishes her
stereotypical duties to achieve her personal goals.