Analyze the character Mrs. Hale in the play Trifles.

Quick Answer

Like Minnie Wright, Mrs. Hale is a farmer's wife and has lived a fairly Spartan life on the farm. Mrs. Hale has no name, and Glaspell offers no physical description of the character. Yet the audience comes to understand Mrs. Hale through her dialogue and behavior. She defends Minnie's housekeeping skills, saying, "Farmer's wives have their hands full." Mrs. Hale is the more opinionated of the two women searching the house, and she's the one who finds and hides much of the evidence. In doing so, she displays loyalty to Minnie and great strength of character.

Expert Answers
M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Mrs. Hale is the wife of Lewis Hale; a farmer who is the only witness to the the aftermath of the murder of John Wright by his estranged wife, Minnie.

A character with no first name, Mrs. Hale is a fellow farm wife, just like Minnie. There is no direct description of her but, her behavior throws in many clues as to her life and experience. Equally the audience can infer, from the very vocal opinions that she emits, how she feels about the entire thing.

It is evident that Mrs. Hale is a traditional farm wife who, by default, is not only her husband's wife, but also his "right hand". She shows up with Lewis to conduct the search at Minnie Wright's house, and she obediently collected Minnie's belongings as asked. She takes her role as a farm wife seriously, as she defends this particular fact about Minnie's own life when the district attorney laments the state of the house implying that Minnie does not work hard enough at home. Phrases such as

there's much to be done in a farm

and

Farmer's wives have their hands full...

are often expressed in defense of women just like her and Minnie.

This tendency to defend herself "stiffly" from the jabs of the men makes Mrs. Hale a woman that, in comparison to Mrs. Peters, seems more free of thought and speech, regardless her being less "sophisticated" than the other woman.

Mrs. Hale displays a strong sense of loyalty toward Minnie Wright also because, as a fellow farm wife, she knows that farming is a thankless job, often accompanied with terrible isolation. Knowing this makes her feel guilty about not having "been there" for Minnie when the latter needed it the most. Hence, Mrs. Hale had sensed that something terrible was going on in the Wright household; yet, as her obedience as a wife dictates, she chose to stay "out of it".

In the end, Mrs. Hale is willing to stop at nothing to defend Minnie. From putting the circumstantial evidence together, to the surreptitious "fixing" of the erratic stitching, we see an understanding, and extremely loyal woman. The toughness of the farm life, her strong grip on reality, and the realization that women DO have limits is what makes the substance of Mrs. Hale as a very influential character in the play.

laurniko eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Mrs. Hale's actions in Trifles show that she is a woman who is hardworking, perceptive, loyal, and pragmatic.

Mrs. Hale is a local farmer's wife who is generally referred to as comfortable looking but enters the crime scene with her nerves plain on her face. She's pragmatic enough to know that she might bear witness to something she would rather not see. She also makes it clear that she supports her husband because she arrived to the scene with him, despite it being a place where the men are trying to take center stage. She also collects things that Minnie might need with a discerning eye.

That Mrs. Hale is hardworking is evident in the remarks she makes about Minnie Wright. When the county attorney insults Minnie's housekeeping, Mrs. Hale is clearly offended and reminds him of how much work there is to do on a farm. She starts rearranging the pans under Minnie's sink and remarks that she wouldn't want people to come in to look through things and judge her household.

The county attorney also comments on Mrs. Hale's loyalty, saying she's "loyal to [her] sex" when she defends Minnie. Mrs. Hale declares that she liked Minnie, despite not having seen her in quite awhile. She continually defends Minnie throughout the play when she sees the men are inclined to dismiss her. In the end, when faced with evidence of Minnie's crime, she takes it and hides it from the men.

Mrs. Hale proves to be more perceptive than many of the people in the play. She comments that the Wright household was not a cheerful place; when the county attorney blames it on Minnie, Mrs. Hale reminds him that John wasn't any better. She reads the scene better than the sheriff or the attorney. She recognizes the small signs—trifles—that tell the story of why Minnie was unhappy and why she likely killed John.