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Trifles, written by Susan Glaspell tells a story about a murder and an investigation conducted by the local town Sheriff, County Attorney, Mr. Hale neighboring farmer and other townsfolk. The scene is set on a farm on a cold winter's day. Mr. John Wright the owner of the abandoned farmhouse where his body was found that morning had a gloomy kitchen which was left in disorder. There are unwashed pans, old stale bread on the counter outside the bread box. A dish-rag left on the table from previous chores, and other signs of unfinished chores throughout the house.
The Sheriff, County Attorney and Mr. Hale were the first to arrive on the scene. Shortly after the men entered the farmhouse Mrs. Peters, the Sheriff's wife accompanied by Mrs. Hale enter the house cautiously and both seemed nervous and fearful. The women initial did not venture far into the house and stayed close together near the door entrance. Before the Sheriff began his official investigation, he directed Mr. Hale to the County Attorney for questioning. The County Attorney wanted to know what Mr. hale had observed when he arrived at the house the day prior. The Sheriff chimed in and said the place looked the same except he asked Frank to build a fire in the fireplace due to the cold weather. The County Attorney seemed disturbed by the Sheriff actions and told him that he should have placed someone at the house to guard the crime scene. Mr. Hale and a man named Harry was going to town that morning to deliver a load of potatoes. Hale commented to Harry, "I'm going to see if I can't get John Wright to go in with me on a party telephone" we all know how John likes to talk about himself (Glaspell Line 30).
The County Attorney interrupts Mr. Hale comment because he wanted more facts about what Hale saw in the Wright's farmhouse the day before. The comment that Mr. Hale gave is important because it provided the first clue that there were problems within Wright's home. From this observation, the reader of this play can make a reasonable assumption that Mr. Wright controlled what was going on in the house. Mr. Hale's comment could lead the readers to think that Mrs. Wright had the motive to kill her husband. While the County Attorney gave little attention to Mr. Hale's statement, Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters found the statement very intriguing. Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters built upon this thought throughout the play as they discover more clues about what Mrs. Wright was thinking and doing while she was in the kitchen. The two women foresaw that there were problems in the marriage that lead up the incident while the men disregarded such trivial details in their investigation.
When Mrs. Peters directed Mr. Hale's attention the exploded jars of fruit preserves in the cabinets Mr. Hale casually commented, "Well, women are used to worrying over trifles" (Glaspell 150). To Mrs. Peters this could be a crucial piece of evidence. Mr. Hale's comment gently reproached the women for focusing on things he considered to be important. Mr. Hale suggests the women should be forgiven because women tend to deal with the smaller details. Mr. Hale implies that because women dealt in trifles, they must be classified as trifles. Meanwhile, the County Attorney, the Sheriff, and Mr. Hale, spend all their time looking for evidence they felt were more significant to their case. The one thing the men overlooked is that most evidences often consists of the little trifle things especially when there are no eyewitnesses to give an account to what really happened.
While the investigation continued Mr. Henderson the county attorney and Mrs. Hale were on opposing sides when it came to the matter of understanding what produces happiness in a home. Mr. Henderson comments, "Noâ”€it's not cheerful. I shouldn't say she had the homemaking instinct" (Glaspell 182-183). Mrs. Hale replies, "Well, I don't know as Wright had, either" (Glaspell 184). Mr. Henderson makes the assumption that women are responsible for the domestic domain and concludes that if there was no happiness within the Wright's home it was because Mrs. Wright did not possess the necessary skills to accomplish the task. Mrs. Hale whole heartedly disagrees with Henderson's ideas and realizes that although the Wright's home life has a physical aspect, the psychological and emotional state of Mrs. Wright plays a great role as well. Mrs. Hale has always felt that Mr. Wright did not empathy for his wife and isolated her from the rest of the community. To Mrs. Hale, John Wright is responsible for the unpleasant atmosphere in their home. Before the women's discovery of the birdcage, unfinished quilt, and not to mention the missing canary, Mrs. Peters commented to Mrs. Hale that she did not know if Mrs. Wright killed her husband. Mrs. Hale did voice her opinion that she thought Mrs. Wright was innocent, "Well, I don't think she did/Asking for an apron and her little shawl/Worrying about her fruit" (Glaspell 260-262) and how could you implicate someone who attention is on trifles like her preserves and her apron could be found guilty of murder. Later in the play, Mrs. Hale finds out she had made an incorrect assessment about Mrs. Wright. Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters hid their true thoughts by deciding to cover up the evidence by letting the men think they were interested in matters of smaller details. This was all done to protect Mrs. Wright from being prosecuted by the law.
A conversation commence between Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters about how much Mrs. Wright cared for the canary. It brought joy to the home with it songs it would sing. In a soft voice Mrs. Peters tells Mrs. Hale about a horrible incident when she were younger. Mrs. Peters whispers, "When I was a girl/my kitten/there was a boy took a hatchet, and before my eyes/and before I could get there/(Covers her face an instant)/If they hadn't held me back, I would have/(Catches herself, looks upstairs, where steps are heard, falters weakly)/hurt him" (Glaspell 466-471). Mrs. Peters at that moment could relate to the horror Mrs. Wright's felt about the death of her canary, and realizes true justice cannot be satisfied by the law alone especially when her husband John Wright emotionally abused her as he did.
In the last few lines of the play Mrs. Hale and Mr. Henderson, the county attorney strikes up a conversation. Mr. Henderson's questions unify conflicting theories from earlier parts of the play. Mrs. Hale stern reply to Mr. Henderson's questions shows his lack of knowledge of domestic affairs. Mr. Henderson's lack of concern and clear disregard for the women's knowledge in this play furthers the women's cause to cover up what they knew without causing any suspicion in the men. Mr. Henderson commented to the Sheriff, "Well, Henry, at least we found out that she was not going to quilt it/She was going to/what is it you call it, ladies?" (Glaspell 568-570). Mrs. Hale replies, "We call it Knot it, Mr. Henderson" (Glaspell 571-572) as Mrs. Hale is referring to the quilting technique used to make the quilt. In the end of the play the readers may notice that the women put together a united effort to protect Mrs. Wright from being prosecuted for her husband's death.
In summation, the men in the play spent most of their time looking for hard relevant evidences to solve the murder and use it in a court of law. On the other hand, the women in Susan Glaspell's play "Trifles" paid attention to the small clues that ultimately revealed the dismal emotional life Mrs. Wright had to endure. The women put together a theory that Mr. Wright's oppressive behavior must have been tough for Mrs. Wright to live with. Not to mention the fact that Mrs. Wright had no children in the home. The readers of "Trifles" surely will notice that Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters uncover a psychological profile of Mrs. Wright as a housewife desperate for attention. The play comes to a close with the characters departing the kitchen and the women acknowledging to the County Attorney that Mrs. Wright's used a knotting technique to make her quilt. This statement could be a play on words indicating the way Mrs. Wright knotted the rope around her husband's neck to kill him.