1) briefly summarize the reasons the character have come to the Wright's home and describe what they find there 2) Which trifles ----innocent, everyday details---add up to murder in this play?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

1. While the play begins the day after a murder, the background information ls soon revealed that a neighbor of the Wright's, Mr. Hale has reported stopping to ask about the Wright's getting on a party line with him, but when he arrived Mrs. Wright was sitting in a chair, rocking in a nervous, repetitious motion while pinching pleats in her apron. She told the neighbor that Mr. Wright was dead upstairs from having been choked to death by someone who broke into their house. As a result of this information, the sheriff, Henry Peters, is summoned as well as George Henderson, the county attorney, and Mr. Hale, a neighbor, who escorts the men into the house.

The men, who hold patriarchal views, begin their scientific search for the inciting incident that caused the crime; they also search for any evidence that might lead them to this incident, but they dismiss the idea of searching in the kitchen because the sheriff does not think there is anything important there. "Nothing here but kitchen things," the sheriff asserts. When Mrs. Peters says that Mrs. Wright was worried about the preserves freezing in the kitchen because the fire would go out, Mr. Henderson and Mr. Hale dismiss this "trifle." So, the men go upstairs and the women, Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters, enter the kitchen to straighten it and wait for the men, who find no evidence. Ironically, then, it is in the kitchen that the evidence, scientific and "trifling" both, is located and found by the women who, as Sheriff Hale says "are used to worrying over trifles."

2. Trifles that add up to murder in Glaspell's play:

Items that suggest loneliness, isolation, depression:

  • plain clothes and an apron and a little shawl (the former Minnie Foster "used to wear pretty things," Mrs. Hale remarks when she sees the plain clothing)
  • dirty towels (These indicate that Mrs. Wright may have been unhappy, detached, or lonely) 
  • Mrs. Hale remembers how lonely Mrs. Wright must have been out in this isolated farm house. She wishes she had visited her neighbor more

Items that indicate that something may have occurred suddenly:

  • a table only partly cleaned as though someone had suddenly stopped
  • squares of quilt material that are sewn with erratic stitches in sharp contrast to many others that are extremely neat
  • a loaf of bread outside the breadbox

Items that suggest a motive for Mrs. Wright's having retaliated against her husband who inflicted such isolation upon her:

  • an empty bird cage with a broken door, hidden in a cupboard
  • a dead canary with a broken neck, hidden in an ornate box. Mrs. Peters observes, "Somebody--wrung--its neck." Mrs. Hale concludes that Mrs. Wright must have really liked the bird because she was going to bury it in a pretty box.
  • Mrs. Hale also notes that Minnie Foster was in the choir before she married Mr. Wright; the dead canary would have been the only music she heard now