It's the Little Things That Kill

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Susan Glaspell's play Trifles is probably often misinterpreted by many viewers. One person made the following comment, "Trifles is a lousy mystery. All the action took place before the curtain went up. Almost in the beginning, on the third page, we find out ‘who done it.' So there isn't really much reason to sit through the rest of the play." Trifles does center around a murder investigation, but the mystery is not about "who done it," but why it was done. Women's lowly social status at the time seems to be the theme as the murderer's motive is discovered. The play takes place during the winter in a lonely farmhouse. The time is the early 1900's.

Mr. And Mrs. Wright are the two unseen characters in the play. John Wright was killed before the play started. John was a cold, unfriendly man who to the public was a good man, but at home was emotionally abusive to Minnie. Before Minnie and John were married, Minnie was a cheerful woman who loved to sing. John was a controlling man whose cold and harsh spirit overtook Minnie's cheerfulness. Minnie's clothes were worn out, and she no longer sang. They lived in a lonely farmhouse that was situated "down in a hollow." Minnie had no company and seems to have lived in isolation because of John. The last straw was when John wrung Minnie's pet bird's neck. The bird was probably the only thing that kept Minnie going, and so Minnie strangled John in his sleep much like he did to the bird.

The men (the country attorney, Mr. Hale, and the sheriff) walk into the kitchen of the farmhouse and immediately begin making judgements, drawing conclusions, and ridiculing the women. They make comments about Minnie like "Well, can you beat the women! Held for murder and worryin' about her preserves" and "Not much of a house keeper." The men perambulate the farmhouse, looking for evidence and clues as to why Minnie would have killed her husband. As they make fun of the women for worrying over "trifles," they overlook the key to the...
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