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Though its plot focuses on a single moral choice, that of Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters deciding whether or not to expose why Mrs. Wright killed her husband, Trifles is thematically complex. It addresses the abiding issue of justice and contemporary issues of gender and identity politics. Susan Glaspell’s power comes from the way she interweaves these issues until they are impossible to separate. When they enter the farmhouse, Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters are there as wives, adjunct to their husbands’ roles in society.
However, through the process of attempting to help another woman by gathering items from her household that might comfort her in jail, they learn to identify themselves first as women and only secondarily as wives. Each woman recognizes her own life in Mrs. Wright’s suffering, and each comes to see that given the wrong circumstances, she, too, would have killed the man that so damaged her.
These women symbolize all women, and this growing awareness suggests the possibility of personal transformation that decades later emerged in feminist consciousness-raising groups. When they decide to hide the evidence of Mrs. Wright’s motive for the murder, the two women are condoning the crime, or declaring that it is not a crime, but justice for the suffering that John Wright inflicted on his wife.
Mrs. Hale discovers that Mrs. Wright was, in fact, a very lonely woman who felt isolated and who had no outlet for her emotions and who did not enjoy hobbies, etc. The canary was one of her only sources of joy and her husband, of course, wrung its neck and killed it. Mrs. Hale feels guilty and sad that she did not stop by to see Mrs. Wright and to check on her. Of course, "hindsight is 20/20" they say, which simply means that she could say that she should've stopped by more often, but there is nothing she can do about it now. The time has passed and what is done is done. Mrs. Wright has murdered her husband and Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters can only talk about the "what if's."
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