Trifles can be simply understood as “something of little importance or value to someone”; however, in Susan Glaspell’s Trifles, femininity is shown encountering a revolt against a male dictated society and how women pay attention to the simplest things to make it have value. The difference in behaviors with men and women is verbally acknowledged but it also shows the character’s intentions. Mrs. Peters – wife of the Sherriff – and Mrs. Hale – the neighbor -, were only invited to the scene because they were there for what women “were meant to do” and that is gathering information and cleaning up things to find evidence.
The male characters view Mrs. Wright differently than the women because they assume Mr. Wright is a tough man but would never be beastly towards his wife, but the women play a role of understanding his death. Trifles displays opinionated views of men toward women, emphasizing that women only concern themselves with insignificant duties in life.
Glaspell’s play, Trifles, takes place in a single setting where the reader learns that the wife is a murderer. The men and women though in the same setting, see completely opposite scenes within the same space since each character sees evidence that can be limited to their gender. The women notice “women items” – a sewing box, an empty bird cage and even preserved fruit. The men pay no attention to these fine details because they believe no harm could have come from a “womanly space”. Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters then recognizes an empty bird cage and remembers that Mrs. Wright owned a song bird. As an observation, they see the door is broken, and seemed to have been wrestled with; the motive of the crime is someone may have been wrestling with it. They then find the dead bird is wrapped up in a piece of silk in the sewing box with its neck rung; this surveillance helps to determine who killed Mr. Wright and why she killed him the way she did. Ultimately, the women decide to hide the evidence of the bird while the men continue to search for a motive.
The men, on the other hand, who are investigating alongside them are looking for something bigger. The outcome or verdict of Mrs. Wright means nothing towards the County Attorney because Hale had a point to make that can help them understand the Wright’s relationship, but he shuts it down not only once but twice. He then suggests that he will speak about it later. Though he says this, it isn’t mentioned again. Mrs. Wright’s treatment from her husband seems so natural to the Attorney that his first word to utter was: COUNTY ATTORNEY. Let’s talk about that later, Mr. Hale. I do want to talk about that but tell now just what happened when you got to the house. (Glaspell 248)
Because Mrs. Wright is worried about a jar of preserves not being able to withstand the cold and end up breaking, Mr. Hale assumes this need is insignificant: HALE. Well, women are used to worrying over trifles. (Glaspell 250)
The world of law is connected to the world of men throughout the play as evidence of finding raw violence. The law is expected to be represented by the Sheriff and his wife since she is technically “married to the law” alongside the County Attorney. According to Mrs. Peters, in order to convict her:
MRS PETER. Mr. Henderson said coming out that what was needed for the case was a motive; something to show anger, or – sudden feeling. (Glaspell 253)
They are unable to solve the crime because of being close minded to the situation and not thinking about why Mrs. Wright acts un-empathetic about her husband being dead; detail is key just as the quilt with a specific patch being sewn messily compared to the other patches which look perfect and neat. This once again is an observation by the women. The feminine concept of justice is finding every possible way to allow her to get away scotch free and finding a reasoning behind the meditation rather than a male concept which can be an act of hostility and not contemplation. Technically, Mrs. Wright is guilty of a crime along with Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters because they hide the bird whose neck was rung by Mr. Wright since the singing annoyed him. This could have been used to convict, since it resembles how her husband is now dead because of the rope around his neck as aforementioned. The bird cage acts as a symbol of being restrained. This leads to the understanding that she has no escape. As the evidence is starting to make sense to the women, they begin to sympathize with her, understanding the difficult times that she has been enduring: MRS HALE. . . . I don’t think a place’d be any cheerfulller for John Wright’s being in it. (Glaspell 251)
EVIDENCE Mrs. Wright feels isolated in a way of being neglected, not having children to take care of and not being happy. When she is younger and known as Minnie Foster, she is vibrant, happy, and known to everyone, but now she is married; her social life and joy is down the drain after approximately 30 years. The isolation is now leading her on, willing to let her husband pay for all the lonely and depressive times she has in the farmhouse. Trifles presents an accurate portrait of male behavior not paying attention to what is going on, arrogant that women complain for no reason but not realizing that it is all built up emotions waiting to be addressed. In Mrs. Wright defense, she will describe men as being manipulating; Mrs. Hale describes them as immature because they laugh at every observation they make, and Mrs. Peters thinks of men as irrational. The femininity of the scene is misjudged as the Sheriff thinks the kitchen may be useless to the investigation as he says: SHERRIFF. Nothing here but kitchen things. (Glaspell 249)
Meanwhile, the Attorney wants to search the barn since it has manly equipment for evidence. Mrs. Hale understands Mrs. Wright to be senseless after murdering her husband. She has a sense of being relieved yet feel so numb to the situation that she will be alone from this day forward. Glaspell’s play illustrates that a murderer can be affected by a murder.
HALE. She was rockin’ back and forth. She has her apron in her hand and was kind of – pleating it.
COUNTY ATTORNEY. And how did she – look?
HALE. Well, she looked queer. (Glaspell 248)
HALE. Has anybody been notified?
MRS. WRIGHT. No. (Glaspell 249)
Because of a traditional female role as a mother, wife, and housekeeper, there is a belief of what women should and shouldn’t do. Unfortunately, though time has passed, the expectations of a woman has not been changed much, along with the roles of men and behavior. Each female character’s relationship with the role of women in society displays unity as they were able to pay attention to fine detail.
Glaspell, Susan. Trifles. The Seagull Reader: Literature, Plays, edited by Joseph Kelly, W.W Norton & Company, 2018, pp. 245
Cite this essay
Female Enlightenment with Isolation and Justice in “Trifles”. (2020, Sep 09). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/female-enlightenment-with-isolation-and-justice-in-trifles-essay