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In Susan Glaspell's play, Trifles, why didn't Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters reveal their...

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taradookhie | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted February 16, 2011 at 9:55 AM via web

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In Susan Glaspell's play, Trifles, why didn't Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters reveal their discovery of the dead bird?

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booboosmoosh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

Posted February 16, 2011 at 2:07 PM (Answer #1)

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In Susan Glaspell's play, Trifles, Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters are very careful not to reveal the dead canary that they find in Mrs. Wright's sewing basket.

The two women have come to the scene of Mr. Wright's alleged murder to gather a few things for Mrs. Wright, who is being held in the jail, accused of killing her husband. While the women are there, they go through the kitchen and living area to find things that might be useful to Mrs. Wright. They do not know her, though as their time passes in that sad and dark home, Mrs. Hale wishes she had made more of an effort.

As the women work to complete their task, they listen to the men who are totally unsympathetic of a woman's plight in the world: the hard work needed to keep a home, extra work created by thoughtless husbands, the difficulty in providing a home with a cheery atmosphere; and, jarred jellies broken due to the cold. The men refer to a housewife's worries as "trifles." The men are particularly uncaring about the life of the woman they have decided is guilty.

Upon further discussion between them, the women realize that without children, Mrs. Wright's home and life must have been barren indeed. They remember her as a vibrant, pretty young woman who used to sing in the church choir before she married Mr. Wright. (And it is probably no mistake, with irony included, that her husband's name is "Wright," for he has been anything BUT "right.")

The women find a birdcage in a cupboard, stored away, which puzzles them. They believe a bird would have made the house a happier place, providing companionship for the housewife. When they discover the dead bird in a little box in Mrs. Wright's sewing basket, its neck at an irregular, unnatural angle, it does not take much for them to realize that Mrs. Wright had saved the dead bird to bury it, and that it had not died a natural death. They surmise that Mr. Wright must have killed it.

Their sense of compassion is heightened. Mrs. Peters remembers losing a baby, and how devastating it was especially because she had no friends their to comfort her. She also recalls a little boy, when she was young, who killed a kitten before her eyes—she blurts out that she could have...killed him! The women believe that when Mr. Wright killed the bird, the only bright spot in Mrs. Wright's harsh and lonely world, that she lost her mind and killed her husband while he slept.

The pair of housewives hide the evidence of the dead bird: they believe that if they let the men know of its existence, it will provide them with a motive for Mrs. Wright's "alleged" murder of her husband. In the face of the total lack of concern the men show for the plight of women such as themselves, the women unite in their purpose to protect Mrs. Wright as best as they are able.

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