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Susan Glaspells Trifles Essay

Susan Glaspell’s play, Trifles, explores the fact that women pay attention to the little things that may lead to the solution of a bigger problem. Why do women pay attention to the little things? Could it be because the attention to detail is the starting point to solving the bigger problem? Let’s think of the ‘little things’ like pieces of a puzzle. When all the little pieces are put together, they usually form a picture; therefore you see the whole picture. In this play, the men think it’s just like women to worry about the little details that they see throughout the house, they think it’s ‘trifle’. What they don’t seem to realize is that by the women paying attention to the little things, they are actually solving the murder of Mr. Wright.

The first little detail is the fruit preserves when Mrs. Peters said to Mrs. Hale “She worried about that when it turned so cold. She said the fire’d go out and her jars would break.” That’s when the Sheriff replied “Well, can you beat the women! Held for murder and worryin’ about her preserves.” (Glaspell, 2010, lines 27-29, p 143). If Mrs. Wright hadn’t been preoccupied, she could have started a fire to keep the preserves from freezing. Why was Mrs. Wright preoccupied? This is probably when the two women thought that perhaps the Wrights were having an argument or maybe even something worse was happening. Another little detail is the fact that Mrs. Wright didn’t wake up while her husband was being strangled to death.

Unless Mr. & Mrs. Wright slept in separate beds she should have felt him struggling while the noose was being put around his neck or heard him gasping for air. It also seemed strange that there was a gun in the house and it wasn’t used. Why strangle him? Why not use the gun? According to an essay on Susan Glaspell’s Trifles, the author noted “The strangling of Mr. Wright, which perplexes all when a gun was handy, is reminiscent of the strangling of that bird.” (Susan Glaspell) Another little detail the women notice was the empty birdcage that was stuffed in the cupboard with no bird in it. Mrs. Hale asked if the Wrights had a cat, to which Mrs. Peters replied, “No, she didn’t have a cat. She’s got that feeling some people have about cats—being afraid of them.”

(Glaspell, 2010, line 84, p 146). Then they notice the broken door hinge and Mrs. Hale thought it looked like someone was rough with it and being rough with the cage was perhaps a sign of anger. An example of anger and hostility was when Mrs. Hale described what it was like to be around Mr. Wright. “But he was a hard man, Mrs. Peters. Just to pass the time of day with him–like a raw wind that gets to the bone.” (Glaspell, 2010, line 97, p 146).

Mrs. Hale then went on to explain how Mrs. Wright was like a bird. “—real sweet and pretty, but kind of timid and—fluttery. How—she—did—change.” (Glaspell, 2010, line 101, p 146). The Mrs. Wright that is described here is different from the character we know in the play. The women we know in the play seemed to be a cold and angry woman. She didn’t have children and the only company she had was a bird. Mrs. Hale suggested to Mrs. Peters that she bring the quilt to Mrs. Wright in the jail. While they look for scissors and more patchwork to take with them, Mrs.

Hale finds the dead bird wrapped up in a little box to which she exclaims “But, Mrs. Peters—look at it. Its neck! Look at its neck! It’s all—to the other side.” and Mrs. Peters says, “Somebody—wrung—its neck.” (Glaspell, lines 107-108, p 146). This is when the two women realize Mrs. Wright killed her husband, but neither of them wants to break the alliance they made and turn her in.

Mrs. Wright was living her life as if she was already living in jail. That kind of life is such a lonely and isolated one. A person would do just about anything to escape that emotional and physical prison.

Because these women took notice of all the “little things”, they were able to put the puzzle together, piece by piece. They were able to feel the loneliness and pain of Mrs. Wright. They were able to see the whole picture and solve the case. Because the men were only interested in physical evidence they were not able to see the little things that the women did. They were not able to come to any conclusions as to what happened and why. Instead, they made fun of and belittled Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters for worrying about the little things.


Glasspell, S. (2011), Trifles, in D.L. Pike and A.M. Acosta’s (Eds.) Literature: a world of writing poems, plays and essays. Retrieved from VitalSource eBook for Education Management Cooperation

Susan Glaspell’s Trifles – Little Things Mean a Lot, 123HelpMe.com. Retrieved fromwww.123HelpMe.Com/view.asp?id=8589 on October 21, 2010

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