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The one-act play, "Trifles," offers the reader the same kind of evidence used to convict people in a court of law. The only possible evidence missing for the purpose of convincing the reader that the wife killed the husband is an eyewitness or a confession. But people are convicted without those every day.
There is no doubt that the wife killed the husband. She has no explanation, no alibi, the two were home alone, and the husband is killed after he kills the bird--the last bit of joy this woman had living in a male-dominated, patriarchal world.
Her guilt, for the reader, is not in question.
Glaspell manages to reveal a woman's plight in a man's world without being didactic--preachy or obviously designed to teach. Through the subtleness of the drama the issues are, slowly and bit by bit, revealed.
No character preaches and no character has an agenda, and no character is presented as pure evil--except the husband, maybe. The interactions and discoveries provide the theme.
This is something you will have to answer for yourself. Did you like the one act play? Could you figure out what happened? It is a simple story- folks from the town arrive at Mrs. Wright's house to investigate the death of Mr. Wright. He was found with a rope around his neck, in bed, dead. His wife was sitting in a rocking chair when a neighbor arrived, claiming she did not know how it happened or who did it. Mrs. Wright has been arrested. Two women acquaintances accompany the men to the house (one is the sheriff's wife). While the men are tending to their "important" investigation, the women are, in the minds of the men, messing around with "trifles" - silly things like noticing the fruit jars are broken, noticing that Mrs. Wright was in the midst of making a quilt. They notice that one of the squares is sewn in a very erratic way and then they notice that there is an empty bird cage in the home. Finally, they find the dead bird wrapped up in a piece of silk material. They notice that the bird's neck has been broken. All of these things are really "trifles" - and yet...... are they not more important than what the men have discovered, which is nothing? So there is great irony in this play. The men are supposed to be solving the crime, the women are occupying themselves with trifles, and yet these trifles offer proof of what happened.
What happened? Do you think Mrs.Wright killed her husband? Well, he WAS strangled, just like the bird. And the women point out that he was a hard man to live with. There are hints - they say that Mrs. Wright used to "sing like a bird" when she was young, and then her husband "killed" this in her. Do you think that Mrs. Wright finally could take no more and while her miserable husband was sleeping, that same miserable husband that probably strangled her bird, she put a rope around his neck and did to him what he did to the bird?
The county attorney says in the end:
No, Peters, it's all perfectly clear except a reason for doing it. But you know juries when it comes to women. If there was some definite thing. Something to show--something to make a story about--a thing that would connect up with this strange way of doing it.
The "important" men have missed the bigger picture because they failed to pay attention to the trifles.
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