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Women's Power in Law and Justice Essay

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The gender dichotomy in Susan Glaspell’s Trifles has allowed the variant of critical opinions of Glaspell's main themes of women’s power within law and justice. Most literary critics focus on female unity as a means of gaining power; however, as Karen Alkalay-Gut notes, "Underlying this attitude is the assumption that . . . women's lives are individually trivial, and their only strength and/or success can come from banding together" (1). Such assertion construes women through male social law and endorses the masculine value system. But, as illustrated in the ironically-named Trifles, where male calumny proved misfortune as the women used domestic intuition and invisibility to supersede the law in the name of justice, Susan Glaspell shows that during this time period, women held a kind of power. This “power” is delicate and one of the key themes in Trifles. Although critics disagree on how the vastly different gender perceptions within the play are used to portray the theme of women’s power within law and justice, all of their arguments tie back to the fact that the women in the story act as a surrogate for the female society of that time, showing them that they have more power than they realize.
Phyllis Mael asserts in "Trifles: The Path to Sisterhood," that the evolution of the women's relationships from acquaintance to co-conspirators illustrates the female psyche. Mael says the she feels the play's "moral dilemma" stresses the inherent differences between male theoretical sense of morality and female sensitive ethical sense which includes "moral problems as problems of responsibility in relationship" (Mael, 282-83). Although the women draw closer to solving the crime as the men, using "abstract rules and rights," make comments that "trivialize the domestic sphere," ethical agreement comes only after Mrs. Peters moves from "acquiescence to patriarchal law" to understanding, transforming "from a typically male to a more typically female mode of judgment" (Mael,...

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