Trifles Essay, Research Paper
Trifles, written in the early 1900’s by Susan Glaspell, is a one-act play illustrating how women can overreact to their own emotions, allowing these emotions to cloud their judgment. This is shown by describing the feelings of two women who are willing to defend a suspect, blame the victim, and go so far as to hide evidence, to protect another woman from being charged with murdering her husband.
Mrs. Wright is the suspect in the murder of her husband, who was strangled in his sleep, found with the rope still around his neck. The sheriff and an attorney are examining Mrs. Wrights home for evidence. Mr. Henderson, the attorney, speaking of Mrs. Wright says, “Here’s a nice mess, ..Dirty towels! Not much of a housekeeper, would you say, ladies?” (Kirszner & Mandell 1166) Mrs. Hale, the suspects neighbor, defends Mrs. Wright immediately saying, “There’s a great deal of work to be done on a farm. Those towels get dirty awful quick. Men’s hands aren’t always as clean as they might be.” (1166) She says this even though she hardly knows Mrs. Wright. She admits this when she says, “I’ve not seen much of her of late years. I’ve not been in this house – it’s more than a year.” (1166) Even so, Mrs. Hale feels protective toward Mrs. Wright and defends her.
Mr. Peters, the sheriff, and Mr. Henderson, go upstairs to look for a motive. Mrs. Hale is left talking to Mrs. Peters, the sheriff’s wife, and they begin to put themselves in the shoes of the suspect. They imagine how she must have felt living a life in a home that “.. never seemed a very cheerful place” (1166) “..it’s a lonesome place and always was, ..not having children makes less work – but it makes a quiet house.” (1171) They discuss Mr. Wright as if he were a cruel man, “he was a hard man, ..like a raw wind that gets to the bone.”(1171) After hearing this, Mrs. Peters compares how Mrs. Wright must have felt with a memory of her own past. “I know what stillness is. When we homesteaded in Dakota, and my first baby died – after he was two years old, and me with no other then – I know what stillness is.” (1173) There is a sense of pity for the suspect, anger toward the victim, as if he must have deserved to die.
While talking, the women find a fancy box belonging Mrs. Wright. Inside the box, is what they believe to be Mrs. Wright’s dead pet bird. They realize that “somebody – wrung – its – neck” (1172) Remembering a similar incident in her life, Mrs. Peters says, “When I was a girl – my kitten –there was a boy took a hatchet, and before my eyes, ..If they hadn’t held me back I would have hurt him.” (1172) They place the dead bird back in the box, and then, surprisingly, they hide the box. You can almost see what’s going on in the mind of these two women as they must be imagining poor Mrs. Wright, horrified that her awful husband killed her bird, then she must have snapped and strangled him to end her own suffering.
The men come back in, not yet finding a motive, Mr. Henderson says, “it’s all perfectly clear except a reason for doing it, .. something to show – something to make a story about – a thing that would connect up with this strange way of doing it”(1173) The men then go to another room, leaving the women alone.
Mrs. Peters and Mrs. Hale know that the bird could be just the motive they are looking for. “Mrs. Hale rises, hands tight together, looking intensely at Mrs. Peters, whose eyes make a slow turn, finally meeting Mrs. Hale’s” (1174) They look back at box containing the dead bird. Here is evidence that could possibly help convict Mrs. Wright for murder, their emotions running high, they decide to protect her, to get rid of the evidence. “Mrs. Hale snatches the box and puts it in the pocket of her big coat.”
Mrs. Hale doesn’t really know the suspect and has never known the victim. Mrs. Peters is the wife of a sheriff, she has never even met the Wrights ..yet she has sympathy for Mrs. Wright.. her thoughts on her dead kitten, of her lost child. Neither woman is being objective. Together they are in agreement. Together, they choose to protect Mrs. Wright, a poor, suffering, lonely woman, based not on fact, but of their own feelings.