What is the significance of the women's relationships in Trifles?

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amymc | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Associate Educator

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Trifles is an excellent example of an act of uniformity by individuals who feel oppressed in some way.  In this case, the women were treated as insignificant in both word and action.  The reader's first clue is that Minnie Wright has been accused of murdering her husband.  As the county sheriff, the county prosecutor, and a neighboring farmer d descend upon the scene looking for clues, their wives accompany them to gather some minor items, or trifles, to take to Mrs. Wright in jail.  

The women are prepareed to accept Minnie's guilt at face value until a set of circumstances binds them together and changes their minds.  First of all, the men joke about the mess in the kitchen and the fact that Mrs. Wright would be worried about her bottled jam. Mrs. Hale is first to challenge the always-right mentality of the men by noting,

Those towels get dirty awful quick. Men's hands aren't always as clean as they might be.  

The county prosecuter responds,

Ah, loyal to your sex, I see.

This short exchange is quite ironic.  What the prosecuter sees as a small matter becomes an issue of monumental proportion by the end of the play.  This loyalty binds the women and more than likely prevents the conviction of Minnie.

Next, the men joke about Minnie's particular knitting style.  Again, they demean women's focus on trifling matters such as whether to knot or quilt a thread.  However, it is the women that notice the irregularities in Minnie's knitting, the damaged and empty birdcage, and later, the corpse of the bird.  Telling the men would be the right thing to do, but they don't.  Instead, they band together with the lonely Minnie, sympathizing with her situation and determined to keep the secret that will save her life.  

Women did not have much power at this time period.  This seemingly small incident proves that women were willing to join forces against the men who considered them insignificant.


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