Essay on the Play Trifles
In Susan Glaspell's, "Trifles," symbolism is used to emphasize the meaning of the play. Glaspell writes of a woman who murdered her husband because he was to blame for her cold and lonely life . Susan Glaspell wrote Trifles in 1916, basing this brief, one-act play on the murder of the sixty-year-old John Hossack, which she had covered extensively during her stint as a journalist with the Des Moines Daily News after her graduation from Drake University. She traveled to the scene of the crime in Indianola, Iowa, where the farmer John Hossack was murdered after midnight on December 2, 1900. According to Margaret Hossack, who had been married to John Hossack for thirty-three years, she was sleeping beside him and awoke to the sound of an axe twice striking something that turned out later to be her husband's head . In her testimony, she leapt out of bed and ran into the living room, where she saw a light and heard the door closing. She returned to her bedroom with her children and discovered him to be mortally injured.
The sheriff Henry Peters and the county attorney George Henderson arrive with the witness Lewis Hale, Mrs. Peters, and Mrs. Hale at John Wright's farmhouse, where the police are investigating Wright's murder. Lewis Hale recounts how he discovered Mrs. Wright acting bizarrely, as she told him that her husband was murdered while she was sleeping . Although a gun had been in the house, Wright was gruesomely strangled with a rope. The men continually disparage the women for worrying about trifles instead of about the case, but Henderson allows the women to collect some items for Mrs. Wright, who is in custody, as long as he agrees that the objects are irrelevant to the case .
The county attorney, he has been called to investigate the murder of John Wright and will probably serve as the attorney for the prosecution in the event of a trial. He is young and professional in manner, but he often dismisses the female interest in minor details of domesticity, and he disparages Mrs. Wright for what he perceives as her lack of homemaking abilities .
The middle-aged local sheriff and husband of Mrs. Peters, he is at John Wright's house to examine the scene of the crime. Like Henderson, he gently teases the women about their interest in Mrs. Wright's quilt .
A neighboring farmer, he had entered the Wright farmhouse to ask John about acquiring a telephone, only to find a strangled man and a wife acting very bizarrely. He says, "Women are used to worrying about trifles."
A relative newcomer to the town who never knew Mrs. Wright before John Wright married her, Mrs. Peters is "a slight, wiry woman" with a "thin, nervous face." She is married to the sheriff and prefers to follow the law, often apologizing for the behavior of the men because they are only doing her duty. Mrs. Peters understands loneliness and the world of the female domestic .
The wife of the farmer Lewis Hale, she is of a heavier build than Mrs. Peters and resents the condescension shown to her by the men in general and Henderson in particular because of her gender and domestic occupation. She remembers Mrs. Wright as the young Minnie Foster, and she feels sorry for Mrs. Wright. Mrs. Hale regrets not having come to visit Mrs. Wright to alleviate her cheerless life .
A local farmer, he was commonly considered a good, dutiful man, but he was also a hard man and neglected his wife's happiness. He paid little attention to his wife's opinions and prevented her from singing. The play centers on the motive for his murder .
Born Minnie Foster, she used to be a happy, lively girl who sang in the local choir, but after she married John Wright, her life became unhappy and forlorn. Although she does not...
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