Sunday, March 1, 2009

Drama vs. Narrative

Susan Glaspell wrote a narrative and a play that tell the same story. One of the key differences between "Trifles", the drama and "A Jury of Her Peers", the narrative is the separation of action from language in the play. This basic difference is seen in the format of a play as oppposed to that of a narrative. A play is written with the character's name and then their dialogue with some action interspersed throughout; whereas a narrative has a character's dialogue in quotations and there is usually more of a focus on the action than the dialogue. As in all plays, the action is written in parentheses, but it allows for differentiation among the characters. It is easier to recognize a character's personality through their dialogue in a play, especially when it is acted out by a certain individual, than it is to recognize their personality in a narrative where all of the characters tend to blend together. The actions in a narrative are included throughout the story and don't cause the reader to stop to address them. The actions connect the dialogue and help the story to flow in narrative. The written layout of the story is a main difference between a narrative and a play, but just as significant is the difference in narration between the two.

Another key difference between narrative and drama is the narrator. In many plays there is a narrator to set the scene and establish the characters. In Glaspell's "Trifles" there was no narrator so the characters established themselves and spoke in first person. In "A Jury of Her Peers" there was a third person narrator who spoke for the characters part of the time and seemed to discreetly introduce and explain the action after it had occured. There was some suspense for the characters as to who killed John Wright in "A Jury of Her Peers", but the play was more suspenseful as the women's findings were pieced together before their very own eyes. Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters were constantly in defense of Mrs. Wright in the narrative as the name suggests. They tried to back her as they found several pieces of evidence indicating that she was guilty of the crime. The women saw her as one of their own and pitied her for her situation. In the play there was more of a sense that Mrs. Wright and her bird were unimportant, so the women hid the bird. They did not want the men to know and have a solid reason to imprison her. The men made a mockery of the women and what they were doing while the women were the ones who actually technically solved the case by finding the bird. The women misled the men which explains why the play is called "Trifles". Although the story had different titles and was written in different forms, the titles essentially say the same thing, that the women knew what was going on and tried to protect her. Although there are many differences between narratives and plays, Glaspell's "Trifles" and "A Jury of Her Peers" were more similar than different as they told the same story in different forms.


  1. I noticed that all three of the special blogs were able to point out different differences between narrative and drama. The difference you point out about the separation of action and narration is pretty essential in plays. The key factor in getting a better understanding of the story in drama would be to see it acted out on stage. In that case, the interpretation of the actors would make a big difference on how the story is received. In some respects, then you could say that the narrator orchestrates the story as the actors would, highlighting certain points with further description and language choice.

  2. The word “trifles” ironically refers to Mrs. Wright’s erratic quilting and her dead bird. Those are things the men would consider trivial, while for the women and the audience, those are really the main indicators of Mrs. Wright’s guilt. Titling the narrative version “A Jury of Her Peers” references Mrs. Hale’s and Mrs. Peters’ power to have condemned Mrs. Wright, but instead their choice to not bring to the attention of the men about what they believed to be evidence of Mrs. Wright’s motive to kill her husband. I agree that both titles basically both say the same thing, what you refer to as the women’s knowledge and their tacit defense of Mrs. Wright. And like you said, the main differences we find between narrative and drama is the lack of a narrator in the latter and the effects that has on the audience. I find their differences to be mainly the experience. In narrative, we can make the decisions about what the character do and what they mean to us, while in a play, the audience is given a more of a subjective role.