The role and place of women in gendered society used to be popular objects of literary analysis. Dozens of talented writers used the topic of gender discrimination and male superiority to design their stories. Susan Glaspell's Trifles and Henrik Ibsen's A Doll's House create a complex picture of male-female relationships and their effects on women's perceptions about reality. Nora Helmer, the central character of Ibsen's play, seems completely satisfied with her family and social life: she is constantly coddled and patronized by her husband and plays the role of a silly, small girl who cannot take relevant decisions. In a similar vein, Minnie Foster (Wright), the protagonist of Susan Glaspell's Trifles, spends her life in isolation and abandonment, prevented by her husband from realizing her intentions and strivings. Nora and Minnie are two strong females in a male-dominated world, who choose different ways to cope with gender injustices and rebel against gendered standards and expectations of female performance.
Minnie Foster (Wright) and Nora Helmer are two females living in a male-dominated world. They must play doll-like roles of silly girls, who willingly comply with male expectations and demands. Women's feelings in both stories are relatively unimportant. Nora and Minnie spend their lives in isolation and spiritual abandonment, which they often take for granted. Nora's husband does not seem to take Nora seriously. Nora for Torvald is not a personality but a nice, silly supplement to her husband. Torvald behaves, as if Nora cannot have her opinion but needs to be constantly patronized: "Bought, did you say?
All these things? Has my little squirrel been wasting money again? [...] Come, come my little skylark must not drop her wings. What is this! Is my little squirrel out of temper?" (Ibsen, Act I). Torvald treats Nora like a small, silly girl who cannot take personal decisions. He positions himself as the head of his family and constantly implies that Nora is a secondary element in their family relations. Minnie Foster (Wright) has similar feelings about her marriage. "Women are used to worrying over trifles" (Glaspell). Most men are confident that women's concerns are not worth a single penny; instead, the best women can do is to reconcile and comply with their husband's decisions and demands.
Minnie and Nora must constantly comply with their husband's demands. Torvald teaches Nora how to spend their money wisely. He does not notice that Nora has an intricate understanding of business principles and can develop sophisticated strategies to solve their financial problems. He does not realize that Nora wants to preserve Torvald's health: "It was necessary he should have no idea what a dangerous condition he was in. [...] the only thing to save him was to live in the south. [...] I tried tears and entreaties with him [...] that nearly made him angry, Christine. He said I was thoughtless" (Ibsen, Act I). Torvald does not realize the seriousness of her spiritual and moral concerns.
Like Nora, Minnie lives her life in the moral and spiritual oblivion. She dreams of having a child, but her husband is the most serious barrier in her way to realizing her dreams. Instead of listening to her concerns, Mrs. Wright envisions his wife as a hard farm worker, who is extremely successful in her household chores. Even in prison, Mrs. Wright cannot escape the feeling of missing something important. "She said she wanted an apron. Funny thing to want, for there's isn't much to get you dirty in jail, goodness knows. But I suppose just to make her feel more natural" (Glaspell). Minnie's apron and Nora's clothes mask their emotions and concerns. Mrs. Wright's husband cannot see beyond her apron, nor can Torvald see beyond Nora's silly-doll-image. Both women are extremely unhappy for being unable to realize their strivings, desires, and dreams.
Nora and Minnie choose two different ways to cope with gender injustices in their society. Nora finally develops a better awareness about her life and her place in marriage. She no longer wants to carry the burden of gendered standards on her shoulders. She decides to walk away and try to live her life in accordance with her own expectations and beliefs: "I believe that before all else I am a reasonable human being, just as you are - or, at all events, that I must try and become one. [...] I can no longer content myself with what most people say, or with what is found in books" (Ibsen Act III). Unlike Nora, Minnie applies to radical methods of dealing with gender injustice: she kills her husband, because she does not want to tolerate her subordinate position.
The death of Minnie's bird is the turning point and culmination in the development of Minnie's relations with her husband. "I wonder how it would seem never to have had any children around. No, Wright wouldn't like the bird - a thing that sang. She used to sing. He killed that, too" (Glaspell). The reasons behind Minnie's decision to kill her husband are easy to explain: her situation is much more serious than that of Nora Helmer. She has no children and spends her life in isolation. She is not allowed to have friends and hides behind the walls of her house. Compared to Nora, Minnie's life is a real torture. Whether or not she had a choice is difficult to define. However, it is clear that both women are able to overcome the social and individual difficulties and put an end to continuous gender injustice affecting their lives.
Women and their position in the gendered society are frequent objects of literary analysis. In Henrik Ibsen's A Doll's House and Susan Glaspell's Trifles, Nora and Minnie are two strong females in a male-dominated world, who choose different ways to cope with gender injustices and rebel against gendered standards and expectations. Nora and Minnie are similar in the sense that they constantly have to comply with their husbands' demands. The society expects them to be submissive and subordinate. However, neither wants to tolerate her secondary social position. Minnie and Nora choose different methods of dealing with gender injustices: Nora leaves her house for good, and Minnie murders her husband. Both women finally manage to overcome their social difficulties and put an end to gender injustices affecting their lives.