4 April 2014
In the play “Trifles”, the police are investigating the scene. Lewis Hale tells how he discovered Mrs. Wright was acting weird when she told him that her husband was murdered while she was sleeping. Although a gun had been in the house, Mrs. Wright had been strangled with a rope. While the men are investigating upstairs, the women discover an empty birdcage and eventually finds the dead bird in a box in Mrs. Wright’s sewing basket while they are searching for materials for the quilt. The bird had been strangled the same way as John Wright. Mrs. Peters and Mrs. Hale decide to hide the evidence, and the men are unable to find evidence that will prevent her from being acquitted by a Jury. The men that helps investigate the case constantly irritates the women about worrying over trifles instead of the case. Men are more dominant than women for many of reasons. Although men take things more to a higher level, they think of woman as soft as if they don’t want to “get their hands wet”. As the title of the play by Susan Glaspell, “Trifles” suggests, the concerns of women are often considered to be trifles, unimportant issues that are little or no importance to the true work of society, which is being carried out by men. Glaspell questions and calls the reader to also question, the relative value of men’s and women’s perspectives and work by setting up a tension-filled drama that unfolds through the development of two distinct narratives, one male and one female. Holstein contends that the two parallel narratives of Trifles are built upon “the differences in [men’s and women’s perceptions and behaviors as they are] grounded in the home space” (282). According to Holstein, the men in the play approach the Wright house, where Mr. Wright has been found murdered, as a crime scene, while the women who accompany them during the investigation approach the house as a home. Holstein acknowledges that the men and the women have two very different reasons for being there: the men are there to fulfill their obligations as law professionals. The women are there to prepare some personal effects to carry to Mrs. Wright. She argues that in Susan Glaspell’s “Trifles” the fact that the change of their motives is rigid, in the case of the men, and flexible, on the part of the women, determines how they view the scene. There are two critical consequences of this on the part of the women. First, Holstein states that the women’s “way of knowing leads them not simply to knowledge; it also leads to the decision about how to act on that knowledge” (282). She describes this way of knowing as the ability to “relive Mrs. Wright’s entire married life rather than simply to research one violent moment” (287). Second, as a result of adopting this way of knowing, the women are able to gain power “in being devalued, for their low status allows them to keep quiet at the play’s end” (285). Because the men do not expect the women to make a contribution to the investigation, they aren’t interested in the women’s impressions and valuable findings that solved the murder case. In 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 lonely life. The women character's in the play, Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters, solve the murder, while the men, the county attorney and sheriff, wonder about trying to figure it out. Glaspell used symbolism as clues to the murderer's motive that only the women were able to figure out, and kept the motive of the murderer a secret due to the bond of women. An example of symbolism was the dead canary and bird cage. As the women were gathering some of Mrs. Wright's things they discovered a bird cage with a broken door and no bird. They later find the bird in Mrs. Wright's sewing box neatly placed in silk with its neck broken. Mrs. Hale makes the relation of the bird to Mrs. Wright when she stated, "she was kind of like a bird herself-real sweet and pretty, but kind of timid and-fluttery," (Glaspell 1392-93). The canary was a substitute for children and it displaced the silence of the house. When the women found the bird, they realized that Mrs. Wright killed her husband because he prevented her from communicating with others. In a sense, by strangling the bird he strangled his wife. The women related the bird with Mrs. Wright and felt that Mr. Wright was the murderer for what he did to his wife. The jar of cherries was another example of symbolism. When the men were going through the kitchen looking for evidence they came across Mrs. Wright's preserves that had frozen and gone bad. Later when the women were alone in the kitchen Mrs. Hale notices that there was one jar of cherries that were still good. The jar of cherries, "symbolizes the one remaining secret, the motive to complete the prosecutor's case. Mrs. Wright stayed on the shelf, alone and unbefriended on the farm, until the coldness of her marriage, her life in general, broke apart," (Smith 175). This shows that Mrs. Wright's secrets burst from the pressure. She could no longer take living with Mr. Wright. She was too lonely and sad. The only people who came to understand this were the other women because of the female bond. Symbolism was a key part to this short play. Glaspell used it throughout to show the bonding between the women. She used certain items that only the women could understand and relate to in order to represent female bonds. The men in the play didn't understand the jar of cherries or even notice the bird cage without a bird because, as Glaspell showed, the men don't think or notice the same things women do. Women worry more over the small things because those are the ones that actually matter. The setting is important to the development of the play because the issues portrayed in each marriage were not uncommon at the time the play takes place. “Trifles” takes place during the winter months in 1916, on a farm. In the play it is implied by the author that Mrs. Wright was trapped in an abusive marriage. Before she was married, Minnie was a happy, beautiful young woman. All of her happiness seemed to disappear as soon as she was married. Mrs. Wright was not allowed to have friends or contact with the outside world, her only purpose was to clean up after her abusive husband. Being as lonely as she was at the time, living on a farm with no friends probably did not help. In the end she felt she had no other choice but to strangle her husband. The cold winter months probably only made her feel lonelier and more depressed. After the little bit of happiness she had was taken from her she had nothing holding her back. The canary was the only thing keeping Mr. Wright alive. During the investigation, the wives of sheriff Peters and Mr. Hale try to help but their husbands never seem to take them seriously. In the early 1900′s listening to your wife was almost frowned upon. Wives were little more than the mothers of men’s children. If the men in the play only listened to their wives they would have solved the murder of Mr. Wright. Realizing that Wright got what he deserved the women came together to hide the canary he had strangled, the main piece of evidence that proves Mrs. Wright strangled her husband. The women of the play were tired of not being taken seriously by their husbands so they helped Mrs. Wright get away with murdering her husband.
The most important theme in Trifles is the difference between men and women. The two sexes are distinguished by the roles they play in society, their physicality, their methods of communication and the plot of the play. Trifles is a murder mystery that explores gender relationships, power between the sexes, and the nature of truth. In the play, the farmer and his wife never actually appear. Instead, the story focuses on the prosecutor, George Henderson, who has been called in to investigate the murder; Henry Peters, the local sheriff; Lewis Hale, a neighboring farmer who discovered Wright’s body; and Mrs. Peters and Mrs. Hale, wives to the two local men. The play suggests that men tend to be aggressive and self-centered. The men come through the door first, and head purposefully toward the stove for warmth. They are the leaders of the community — the sheriff, the local prosecutor, and a neighboring farmer. They get to business immediately, discussing the facts of the case when they miss points that could have been used for the investigation. In contrast, the women, perhaps sensing the gloom and terror in the house, enter and stand close to each other inside the door. They are identified by the roles their husbands play. An important detail is they are always referred to by their married names only, and no first names are used. They are sensitive to the needs of others. It is these differences that allow Mrs. Peters and Mrs. Hale to find the clues needed to solve the crime, while their husbands miss the same clues. According to Bradford, “The men within this play betray a sense of self-importance. They present themselves as tough, serious-minded detectives, when in truth they are not nearly as observant as the female characters”. The woman in the play are more observant. Their clues they found could have been a relevant source of information for them to use for the investigation. Men have a sense to think that when it comes to a Job, they are better at doing it than the woman. That’s not always the case at times.
In conclusion, the story of Trifles successfully displays that men and women have opposing views when the attention to small detail comes into play. This happens so frequently in Trifles that one of the main points of the story is indeed paying attention to small detail. The title of the story even directly goes to one of the main points of the story. The main point of Trifles helps move the story along by progressing the level of investigation between the men and the women which in turn motivates the plot.