In Edgar Allan Poe’s Hop-Frog, Trippetta, a dwarf with good proportions, endeavors to save her friend, Hop-Frog, from having to drink another goblet of wine and is humiliated by the King as a result. Trippetta, being a female servant, takes the King’s abuse without complaint. Hop-Frog is enraged by the insolence that the King has shown Trippetta and plans to get even with the King. In Hop-Frog, there are two views on how women should be treated; the King views women as being lowly creatures that he can degrade; however, Hop-Frog believes that they deserve respect.
Without regard for her own safety, Trippetta takes the attention away from Hop-Frog and places it upon herself. After the King told Hop-Frog to drink the goblet of wine, “Trippetta, pale as a corpse, advanced to the monarch’s seat, and, falling on her knees before him, implored him to spare her friend.” Poe uses the image of ‘pale as a corpse’ to connote that Trippetta feared the King greatly, setting him up as a figure who is meant to be feared, especially by women. The image of Trippetta down on her knees before the King, pleading for her friend, is like the image of a devotee praying to her God for the salvation of her friend. It can also be seen as a sexual act, perhaps she is the king’s concubine. There seems to be a level of familiarity between the King and Tripetta that can only be explained by them having some sort of sexual relationship. Trippetta approaching him in this way furthers the notions of fear and reverence.
Trippetta’s punishment for her boldness is to be humiliated in front of her friend and the King’s seven cabinet members. The King, startled by Trippetta’s audacity is not sure how to act or what to say, but “at last, without uttering a syllable, he pushed her violently from him, and threw the contents of the brimming goblet in her face.” The King wants to humiliate Trippetta here, because she questioned his actions as King, when she implored him to spare Hop-Frog. Pushing and then throwing the wine on Trippetta is a sign that he has no respect for her body or feelings; it is a sexual humiliation. The King not liking to have his authority questioned wanted to reestablish his dominion over his female servants, and he used Trippetta as an example of what would happen if anyone dared to question his authority. He did not want any of his other sex slaves to get any ideas, he is only powerful as long as he is feared. The King probably would be less likely to physically touch a male servant in such a rough manner, simply because men are more likely to fight back, whereas a woman would not. Trippetta succeeded here in taking the attention away from Hop-Frog, but at the expense of her dignity.
This incident with Trippetta is the turning point of the story, because it is afterwards that Hop-Frog determines to teach the King a lesson about proper decorum. After the incident with Trippetta a “harsh and protracted grating sound which seemed to come at once from every corner of the room” disturbing the silence that had fallen on the room. The King furiously asked Hop-Frog: “what – what – what are you making that noise for?” This sound is the sound of the anger welling up in Hop-Frog; it is the sign that Hop-Frog is not going to take the King’s abuse any longer. In a way, this sound animalizes Hop-Frog, it is not a sound that one would typically hear coming from a person. It is Trippetta’s actions that give Hop-Frog the courage to plan an elaborate scheme to humiliate the King and punish him for his wrongdoing. The King stammering is a sign that he is scared by the noise that is coming from Hop-Frog, but his fear is fleeting and he quickly resumes his superior attitude. Hop-Frog wants the King to feel the terror and humiliation that he inflicted upon Trippetta.
Trippetta is not only a woman but she has the added bonus of being a servant to the King, which guarantees her a sad and demeaning life, and she is a racial Other. The King is not concerned about anyone else’s feelings but his own, so he feels that he has the right to humiliate anyone for the sake of his amusement. Trippetta’s actions are unacceptable to the King, because as a woman and a servant she has no right to ask the King to do anything. Hop-Frog takes the King’s abuse regularly without complaint, but when it comes to the King abusing his friend, he will not stand for it. The turning point in the story is when the King disrespects Trippetta, which angers Hop-Frog. Without this scene in the story Hop-Frog may have never freed himself and Trippetta from the bondages of servitude.
Poe, Edgar Allan. Hop-Frog.