The Unheimlich in Susan Glaspell's Play Trifles: A Feminist Interpretation of Freud's Uncanny

Although published three years before Sigmund Freud's "The Uncanny," Susan Glaspell's play "Trifles" is a literary embodiment of Freudian techniques. The dramatic tension in "Trifles" is marked by an acute sense of the unheimlich, or uncanny, which Freud defines as: "uneasy, eerie, blood-curdling... everything that is unheimlich ought to have remained secret and hidden but has come to light." In this play, the three principle female characters -- Mrs. Peters, Mrs. Wright, and Mrs. Hale -- can be understood as personifications of Freud's ego, id, and superego. The symbolic unconscious appears in the text as the absent Minnie Wright, whose enigmatic presence is ingeniously presented as a lack of presence, as something not yet manifest. The unheimlich makes itself felt through Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peter's eventual realization that they are deeply resentful of men and, from their anger, capable of justifying murder. Their realization coincides with the ego's realization of the repressed id, which creates an atmosphere of the uncanny in the text. "Trifles" is the story of women; it paints a picture of the female condition seen through female consciousness. The mind...

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