Your exam will be composed of three sections: one for fiction, one for poetry, and one for drama.
_ For the fiction portion, you will be asked to write a short essay relating to how two to three specific literary devices/elements are used by one of the fiction authors we have read this semester. You can choose from any of the stories we have read or in the textbook, providing it is not the same story you wrote about in your fiction essay. Since this is an essay, so you will need to have an introduction, multiple body paragraphs, and a conclusion. You must have a clear claim about how the author uses specific literary devices and provide sufficient textual support in the form of analysis. (Topic: How to date a brown girl by Junot Diaz)
_ For the drama portion, you will be asked to write a short essay relating to a common idea/theme explored in one of the plays we have read (not just watched) this semester. Again, you can choose from any of the plays in the text, providing it is not the same piece of drama you wrote about for your research essay. Again, this is an essay, so you will need to have an introduction, multiple body paragraphs, and a conclusion. (Topic: Trifles by Susan Glaspell)
*For both the fiction and drama portions of the exam, you only be graded on both content and composition so prepare accordingly.
_ For the poetry portion, you will be given a poem to analyze that we have not discussed in class. For your analysis, you should focus on identifying at least three poetic devices being used in the poem and discuss what you think the poet is using the devices in order to accomplish. Remember: if you are analyzing the poet’s use of diction, you must identify specific word choices and explain the relevance of those particular word choices. If you are analyzing the poet’s use of imagery, it is not enough to say that the poet uses imagery in order for the reader to picture or see what is going on. Again, you must analyze WHY the poet selected a particular image and explain, for example, how it relates to an important idea or concept in the poem. Since knowing the devices we studied in class is the only way to prepare for this section and you will need time to read and analyze the poem before you can write about it, this section will be graded on content only, not a composition. (Topic: Kitchenette Building)
Watching, or reviewing again, the virtual lectures I gave this semester is one important way to prepare for this final.
Below are the grading guidelines for the essays:
__ Provides an insightful answer that demonstrates a deep understanding of both the literary elements and the work, providing analysis and textual support within a well-composed short essay: 30-35 points
__Provides an adequate answer about the work using low level plot details such as who, what, when, and where type statements along with analysis. May have a few errors in conventions: 20-29 points
__Responds with a plot summary of the text with no analysis. May have errors in conventions that interfere with fluency: 10-19 points
__No answer, unrelated details, confused plot details, incoherent composition unbecoming of a student in a second term composition course: 0-9 points
Critical Analysis of Trifles
In Susan Glaspell’s Trifles, gender complexities are explored heavily throughout the play. In summary, the text is a one-act play in which several neighbors go to John Wright’s farmhouse to investigate his murder. His wife Minnie is suspected of the murder. As the men look for evidence to use against Minnie, the women gather her personal effects. Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters decide to hide the evidence that implicates Minnie’s murder of her husband after discovering that he was an abusive man. The play features two investigations into the murder of John Wright. As the male characters progress with their official investigation, the female characters progress with their unofficial investigation. The text combines gender differences and isolation which are the dominate focus in an effort to promote the development of the characters.
First, the primary focus on gender differences is one of the strongest themes that is used to endorse the division between men and women. They are distinguished by their methods of communication, their physicality, their powers of observation, and the roles that they play in society (Huber). The differences start showing as soon as they enter the farmhouse. Glaspell in her introductory narration indicates that “… all are much bundled up and go at once to the stove. They are followed by the two women – the SHERIFF’s wife first; she is a slight wiry woman, a thin nervous face. Mrs. Hales is larger and would ordinarily be called more comfortable looking, but she is disturbed now and looks fearfully about as she enters. The women have come in slowly, and stand close together near the door.]” (Glaspell). That shows the haste that the men have in determining the case. As soon as they seat by the stove, they start a discussion of the details of the case. On the other hand, the women seem to have terror as they enter the house, and they choose to stay near the door.
Next, the men start their investigation immediately seeking the clues that might suggest a motive for the crime. Henderson dismisses the small clues that have a lot of weight and focuses on the clues that he terms as real clues. He dismisses the fact that John was abusive to his wife, the mess in the kitchen, and indicates that the women are only concerned about being loyal to their sex when they rise to Minnie’s defense. The men are so fixated on finding incriminating evidence against Minnie as stated by Glaspell “ I guess before we’re through she may have something more serious than preserves to worry about” (Glaspell). After the men move to other rooms to look for their clues there, the women start their investigative work. As they are going through Minnie’s things, they discover the damaged birdcage and the dead canary. They discover that John had led Minnie to kill him by isolating her from her friends and the things that she loves and also being abusive. The differences in the characteristics of the genders are used to show their character development. For instance, the women are attentive to detail.
Moving forward, the author uses the theme of isolation to promote character development in the play. The author shows the devastating effects of isolation through the play and especially to women. In the play, the author depicts that the men are Mrs. Hales indicates that it was hard to live with John Wright in her words “But he was a hard man, Mrs. Peters. Just to pass the time of the day with him” (Glaspell). Mr. Hale in the play earlier indicates that John liked to stay by himself. On the other hand, isolation affects women. Mrs. Peters recalls how she dreaded being left alone in the house when they were homesteading in Dakota countryside. Their only child dies, and she had to be left alone at home. The two women feel the situation that Minnie was in. According to Mrs. Hale, Minnie was a very outgoing and happy girl until she was married to John Wright. They lived in a gloomy farmhouse where Mrs. Wright could not even see the road. The couple did not have any children to keep her busy. Neither did they have any visitors. The two women understand what Minnie was going through and why she killed her husband. The men in the play may not understand the motive behind killing John Wright but since the women do, they decide to keep the evidence away from the men. The men are looking forward to finding implicating evidence to suggest that Minnie killed her husband without first understanding the situation that was in that home. They are obligated to protect Minnie since John Wright was the beginning of her misery. Thus, loneliness drives Minnie to kill her husband.
Further, symbolism is used to indicate the development of the characters in the book and to promote the themes in the play. One of the symbolism that is used in the play is the number of characters that are present at the scene. Mr. Hale and Mr. Peters are accompanied by their wives. The presence of the country attorney may be interpreted to be necessary as another pair, Mr. And Mrs. Wright was disrupted. That creates symbolism indicating that the law must step in when the society breaks down. Another pair that is seen in the play is Mrs. Wright and her bird (KÖŞKER).That indicates why when her husband kills the bird, she is angry enough to kill him. The play indicates the need of staying together without interruptions. In the presence of interruptions, the law must be involved to solve the conflicts.
Furthermore, Glaspell also uses the technique of German expressionist drama to portray character development in the play. The technique is used to refer to the male characters. The author gives the male character’s names that reveal who they are and their characters. For instance, Mr. Peters, the town sheriff is named Peter which means a rock. That shows his role fits him as he is the foundation of society. Mr. Hales is hearty and hale as his name suggests. The names however do not fit the female characters in the play. For instance, the man that Mrs. Wright marries, John Wright, is far from Mr. Right as it is seen in the story. Expressionist drama is also seen during the climax of the play (Wale and Mukaram).The play shows how trifles may mean a lot in the world. Although the men do not understand this, the women understand it clearly as they are attentive to details thus, they note all the trifles. During the climax of the play, the county attorney says “Well, Henry, at least we found out that she was not going to quilt it. She was going to—what do you call it ladies?” (Glaspell). At this point, the men assume that the ladies are still talking about the housework. However, they are discussing how Mrs. Wright killed her husband. That indicates how the German expressionist dram is used to portray character development in the play.
In a nutshell, Susan Glaspell in her play Triples uses the themes of gender differences and isolation and literary devices such as German expressionist drama and symbolism to promote the development of the characters. Gender differences are used to illustrate the different characteristics of the women and men in the play. The theme of isolation is used to show how isolation led Minnie to murder her husband. It is also used to indicate how her personality and character changed after marrying John Wright. Symbolism and German expressionist drama are further used to show the characterization of the women and men in the play and the different roles that they play.
Glaspell, Susan. Trifles – a One-Act Play by Susan Glaspell, www.one-act-plays.com/dramas/trifles.html.
Huber, Daniel. “Some Linguistic Lines of Thinking on Trifles by Susan Glaspell (the Play and Its Film Adaptation).” Archive Ouverte HAL, 20 Mar. 2019, https://hal.archives-ouvertes.fr/hal-02074785/
KÖŞKER, Nisa Harika GÜZEL. “Bir Polisiye Drama: Susan Glaspell’ın Trifles Adlı Oyunu.” Ankara Universities Dil Ve Tarih-Coğrafya Fakültesi Dergisi, 22 June 2020, www.dtcfdergisi.ankara.edu.tr/index.php/dtcf/article/view/6653/5915.
Wale, Kamal, and Asmaa Mukaram. “Expressionism in Susan Glaspell’s Trifle.” Alustath, Baghdad University, 1 Jan. 1970, www.iasj.net/iasj/article/116507.