Susan Glaspells's Trifles is a little gem of a play. In one short act, the playwright presents the
audience with a complex human drama leaving us with a haunting question. Did an abused Nebraska
farm wife murder her husband? Through the clever use of clues and the incriminating dialogue of the
two main characters, this murder mystery unfolds into a psychological masterpiece of enormous
proportions. Written in 1916, the play deals with the theme of the roles of women in society. This was a
time before women had the right to vote or sit on juries. Shortly after writing the play, Glaspell wrote it
as a short story entitled A Jury of Her Peers.
The scene is set in the cold, gloomy kitchen of a Nebraska farmhouse. The room is quite messy
with signs of uncompleted work everywhere; unwashed pots, a dirty hand towel, and bread left open on
the table. The first characters to enter the stage are two middle-aged men, the county sheriff, Henry
Peters, and Lewis Hale, a local farmer. They are followed by a younger man, George Henderson, the
county attorney. Then, the main characters arrive on stage, the sheriff's wife and the farmer's wife, Mrs.
Peters and Mrs. Hale.
The men have arrived to investigate the murder of the owner of the house, John Wright. The
women have come to gather some clothes and personal belongings for Minnie (Foster) Wright, who now
is in the county jail on charges that she killed her husband. The men are all caught up in the so called
"important" investigation of the case, belittling the women's concerns as being mere "trifles", when
actually the women are the ones uncovering the clues which cou...
... middle of paper ...
...y and perhaps, battered woman. Mrs. Hale was sympathetic because she also was a farm wife but
at least, she had her children to keep her company. Mrs. Hale felt guilty that she hadn't taken the time to
visit Minnie Wright but she excused herself saying that their was so much work to do on the farm and
the Wright place never looked cheerful.
The play was filled with symbols, especially the broken cage and the dead bird, which could have
represented Minnie Wright herself, a woman whose zest for life had been squeezed out of her by her
tyrant of a husband. There was suspense as the women hide the evidence, perhaps saving Mrs. Wright's
life. This leads to a moral dilemma. Did the women have the right to conceal the evidence? Were they
doing it only for Minnie Wright or for all women who could never have a jury of their peers?
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