Domestic Violence And Its Effects
This essay the main women characters in ‘Trifles’ by Susan Glaspell and ‘Sweat’ by Zora Neale Thurston to explore domestic violence. The two plays form an ideal pair which explores domestic violence and its effects in the society. The essay considers how this issue is dramatized differently by Glaspell and Zora. By examining the two novels together, in the limelight of domestic violence and its impacts, the essayist will better discern, in relief, of the two plays achieve success and continues to fascinate the readers. Both novelists explore the relation between the legal narrative, official and illegitimate, suppressed stories, in which the females and the male’s version of conflict ascend over one another and the fate of women, determine their trials. In Trifles, the law is bent and the context of the women replaces the context of men in the court.
Domestic violence or emotional abuse is a behaviour used by one spouse to take control of the other. Forms of domestic abuse include sexual abuse, emotional, physical and economical, and can range from coercive, subtle forms of misuse to brutal physical abuse that may result to death or .disfigurement. Domestic violence affects those involved together with their substantial families, co-workers, friends and community at large. This crime affects children brought up in such families seriously. It subjects them to numerous physical and social problems. This creates a significant chance of increasing the risks of such children becoming the society’s next victims and abusers. The Trifle and the Sweat will give us a great opportunity of exploring some forms of domestic violence and their effects to the victims.
Susan Glaspell and Zora Neale Hurston lived during the early 1900s (Wagner-Martin, pp. 33). During this period, the role of the women in the society was being submissive to men as well as taking care of the domestic duties and responsibilities. This took place in all rural areas. Women hardly worked in order to support their families financially (Lupton, pp. 46). Their principal duties were to take care of children and attend other household duties. As a result, females were placed in the second class status where they were not considered as intelligent as men and were subjected to abuse. The two plays capture the struggles faced by women during this time. Males regard women in the plays with all the formulaic trappings in the setting of the rural American. Nevertheless, Glaspell and Hurston show women rarely fit the stereotype and should never be underestimated at all.
The society during this time had great influence on the way people lived, and could either liberate or oppress based on their standards of living. The society believed in the male superiority and women were oppressed and discontented with their lives. The women in the ‘Sweat’ and the ‘Trifles’ are alienated from their spouses as a result of traditional beliefs that dictate that women should be submissive, the males should dominate marriages, and the need of possessions to facilitate a happy marriage (Lupton, pp. 48).
The Sweat tells the story of a hero Delia Jones, who washes clothes for the whites in Florida town. She used to use the money she got to support her family (Hurston, pp.77). Nevertheless, Delia is married to an unkind man, Sykes. He is abusive to Delia, both physically and mentally. He has an affair with another lady and he uses the money earned by Delia to comfort his mistress. One day, he brings a rattle snake to his house in order to abuse Delia. Ironically, the snake kills him. As the play ends up the author makes the reader under that Delia does no effort to save the life of her abusive husband as he lay dying of bites inflicted by the snake.
Married women are unequally treated. They are required to do all domestic works and be submissive to their spouses. They are required to do things in order to please their husbands. Delia is abused by Sykes who physically beats her from time to time. As a result, domestic violence washes out the love between them. This is evident from the passive response of Delia when her husband suffers from the pains inflicted into his body by the rattle snake which he had brought into the house to abuse Delia. The narrator makes the theme clear by the reaction of Delia. Where there is abuse in marriage, suppressed parties will always want to revenge to the evil did by their husbands. Delia reacts with less concern about the pain her husband is going through as a way of revenging the abuse she has been going through the married life.
Domestic violence causes unfair treatment to the passive party. In the very beginning of the story, the writer makes the reader witness how women are used to attending all domestic chores. At this time, there were no employment opportunities for women more so the blacks. Nevertheless, Sykes is very unsympathetic to the needs of Delia who works for very little money in the laundry. He refuses to work and leaves his wife with all financial responsibilities. When Sykes tries to beat his wife, she says, ” Looka heah, Sykes, you done gone too far. Ah, been married to you fur fifteen years and Ah been takin in washing for fifteen years. Sweat sweat, sweat! Work and sweat, cry and sweat, pray and sweat!” (Hurston, pp.89). This clearly shows that in families dominated by domestic families, the life is so unfulfilling to the spouse affected and there is no love for each other.
Marriages dominated by violence are subject to threats to each other. Sykes keeps on beating his wife and repeatedly uses threats such as “Don’t give me no lip neither, else Ah’ll throw em out and put ma fist upside yo head to boot.” (Hurston, pp. 91). Ironically, the society knows what happening between the two spouses but they believe that what happens in marriages is too personal to question.
Domestic violence leads to unfaithfulness and hatred in marriages. The novel reveals that Sykes carries publicly affairs with another woman. To make the matters worse, he uses the hardly earned money by his wife to comfort the mistress. Sykes keeps on telling Delia that she is too thin and that his other partner is fatter, just to make Delia inferior to his mistress. One day as Delia comes from work she sees the two in a general store. Sykes publicly embarrasses her and says he has no problem with spending her wife’s hard earned money with his mistress. That very night she confronts her husband and the two confess hatred to one another. The author makes the reader understand that domestic violence is accompanied by hatred and misuse of one another. In the end, Delia revenges back in order to get the inner peace. When Delia is hiding in the hangar from the rattlesnake, Hurston writes, “A period of introspection, a space of retrospection, and then a mixture of both. Out of this an unpleasant calm.” (Hurston, pp. 78) Possibly this is all Delia will ever find to pacify her soul.
Domestic violence is characterised by conflicts as seen in the case of Sykes and her wife. The conflict between the two starts when Delia brings her work in the house. Sykes is angered when he comes home and finds his wife sorting the cloths of her bosses. He verbally abuses her and tells her that he does not want the laundry in their home. He also attacks his wife on religious conviction. He wants her to respect the Sabbath day and keep it holy by not working. Delia tells him that her work caters for their home and wins them their daily bread. As a result, the author makes the reader understand that domestic violence makes parties not appreciate the roles of their spouses. They are always at the blame of each other and the marriage is dominated by criticism as evident in the marriage between Delia and Sykes.
Domestic violence leads to murderous deeds in marriages. As a result of the hatred, adulterous behaviours and abuse of one another the feeling of killing the abusive party enters into the other party. For instance, as Trifles opens, Henderson asks Mr. Hale to explain to him what happened. Mr. Hales responds by narrating a series of events which led to his discovery on murder, more so his conversation with Mrs. Wright, whom he found in the kitchenette with the body of his husband laying carelessly. He says, “I was surprised; she did not ask me to come up to the stove, or to set down, but just sat there, not even looking at me, so I said, ‘I want to see John.’ And then she-laughed” (Glaspell, pp.37). The narrator makes it clear that Mrs. Wright never minds about the death of her husband as laughed at him when he demanded to see her husband. Glaspell presents Mrs. Wright as a woman who had no feminine hysteria behaviour.
Domestic violence leads to neglect of the spouses: Neglect can be said to be ignorance, or lack of giving proper attention to one another. Neglect is a major form of domestic abuse faced by many females today’s society. This form of abuse is rarely reported to the concerned authorities as women make mere excuses in regard to those behaviours. Mrs. Wright of Trifle though she is a fiction character suffers the neglect as many women of today. Before the marriage, she was known for her pretty dress which she used to attend to choir with. This personality depicted the confidence and respect she had for herself. After marriage, her life makes significant changes. She had no children and used to stay alone in the house that she occupied together with her husband. She used to stay at home alone for many hours attending family duties.
Domestic violence leads to suppression of the spouses: Where violence exists there is always suppression of another. This argument is supported by the two novels. In trifles, Mr. Wright suppresses and dominates his wife. The suppression makes her be unable to take part in society as she wished to. John Wring does not mind about how her wife thought or wished. The same suppression and the indifferences between the two can be seen as the possible drive for accusations made against Mrs. Wright for murdering her husband while in his sleep.
Ben-Zvi, Linda. “‘Murder, she wrote’: The genesis of Susan Glaspell’s Trifles.” Theatre Journal 44.2 (1992): 141-162.
Glaspell, Susan. “Trifles. Plays by Susan Glaspell.” (1991).
Hilton, Leon. “Trifles, by Susan Glaspell.” Women & Performance: a journal of feminist theory 21.1 (2011): 147-149.
Hurston, Zora Neale. Sweat. Rutgers University Press, 1997.Lupton, Mary Jane. “Zora Neale Hurston and the Survival of the Female.” The Southern Literary Journal (1982): 45-54.
Wagner-Martin, Linda, and Cathy N. Davidson, Eds. The Oxford book of women’s writing in the United States. Oxford University Press, 1999.