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What are the common characteristics of the sheriff, the county attorney, the neighbor...

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lifeisabeach | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted April 27, 2013 at 11:29 PM via web

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What are the common characteristics of the sheriff, the county attorney, the neighbor and John Wright in the play, Trifles by Susan Glaspell?

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Michelle Ossa | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

Posted April 28, 2013 at 5:20 PM (Answer #1)

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The binding factor that make the sheriff, the county attorney, John Hale (the neighbor), and John Wright a seemingly-united front is the fact that they are true products of their time: a historical period in the early 20th century where conflicting views about women and their rights permeated society. This is the reason why none of them are able to see the evident clues that point to the series of events that let Minnie Wright to snap and kill her abusive husband. All men are equally blind to reality due to their narrow-minded views.

The sheriff is a character whose superiority in terms of his job as the protector of the people is topped by his superiority of character. He has made up his mind that Minnie Wright is guilty, rather than conceding the fact that one is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. Moreover, he (as the sheriff) should be the first one to look around and note how the state of the house told millions of clues.

Similarly the county attorney, who is the lead investigator, is oblivious to the clues and, out of all the characters, is the one who condescends the women the most. He is the one who asks the patronizing questions that unnerve Mrs. Hale so much

And yet, for all their worries, what would we do without the ladies? [The women do not unbend. He goes to the sink, takes a dipperful of water from the pail and pouring it into a basin, washes his hands. Starts to wipe them on the roller-towel, turns it for a cleaner place.]
Dirty towels! [Kicks his foot against the pans under the sink.]
Not much of a housekeeper, would you say, ladies?

John Hale, who is in the house as a witness, seems quite disgusted by the actions of Minnie and he is equally insistent in the woman's guilt. He also is patronizing and, like the county attorney, he is blindsided by the few things he sees laying around.  It is Mr. Hale who says the phrase that lends its name to the play:

Well, women are used to worrying over trifles

Then there is the character of John Wright: the murdered man. All that we know from him is what Mrs. Hale tells us from what she could gather. In her small comments, she tells us that John Wright had a temper, that because of him Minnie began to turn depressive, nervous, and scared. It is Mrs. Hale who assesses correctly that the disparate stitching in the quilt that Minnie was trying to make said tons about her state of mind. She also connected the three main items,; the empty bird cage, the chaotic state of the house, and the dead bird, to John Wrights rage. Therefore, John Wright undoubtedly followed the same pattern of patronizing behavior against women that bind all the men in the play, with the exception of John Wright obviously because he is dead.

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