Compare and contrast Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters in the drama Trifles.

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Both Mrs. Peters and Mrs. Hale have feminine sympathies for Mrs. Wright and each other, but, as the wife of a lawman, Mrs. Peters is conflicted in her feelings. In the exposition, as everyone stands in the kitchen, Mrs. Peters notices the fruit jars have broken, and she mentions that Mrs. Wright has talked with her at the jail about her fruit jars. She was worried that they might break once the kitchen fire went out.

SHERIFF. Well, can you beat the woman! Held for murder and worryin' about her preserves.
HALE. Well, women are used to worrying over trifles. (The two women move a little closer together.)

Before the men go upstairs, Sheriff Peters mentions something to the county attorney.

SHERIFF. I suppose anything Mrs. Peters does'll be all right. She was to take in some clothes for her, you know....
COUNTY ATTORNEY. Yes, but I would like to see what you take, Mrs. Peters, and keep an eye out for anything that might be of use to us.
MRS. PETERS. Yes, Mr. Henderson.

As the men go upstairs, the two women listen to their steps, and then they look around the kitchen. Mrs. Hale comments that she would not like men coming into her kitchen snooping around. But, Mrs. Peters defends them.

MRS. PETERS. Of course, it's no more than their duty.

Perhaps, because she is the neighbor of Mrs. Wright and has known her before she was married Mrs. Hale is more defensive of the accused woman. Nonetheless, as they talk, Mrs. Peters's sympathies grow for Mrs. Wright, especially as Mrs. Hale relates that when Mrs. Wright was a young Minnie Foster, she was pretty and happy. At that time she wore lovely clothes and sang, too. Now, childless and alone with a man described as "not cheerful," Minnie Foster Wright becomes a tragic figure to Mrs. Peters. Sympathetically, she tells Mrs. Hale that Mr. Henderson will be sarcastic in court and will ridicule Minnie Wright for "sayin' she didn't wake up when a rope was put around her husband's neck."

Mrs. Peters becomes more sympathetic toward Mrs. Wright after having heard about how cold Mr. Wright was and how lonely Mrs. Wright must have been, having no one to sing with and nowhere to go. However, Mrs. Peters is still apprehensive about doing anything that may be interpreted as inappropriate or as tampering with evidence. On the other hand, Mrs. Hale feels a personal responsibility for what has happened.

MRS. HALE. Oh, I wish I'd come over here once in a while. That was a crime!....Who's going to punish that!

However, when both Mrs. Peters and Mrs. Hale discover the poor, dead canary whose neck has been twisted, their eyes meet with a look of "growing comprehension, of horror." When they hear the men coming, Mrs. Hale hides the box under the pieces for the quilt. After the men depart, Mrs. Peters's sympathy for Mrs. Wright seems stronger as she recalls certain incidents in her life that were difficult for her. She recalls, "I know what stillness is." When the men approach, the women look at the pretty box that contains the canary. Mrs. Peters cannot touch it, so Mrs. Hale hides the box in her pocket of her heavy coat. The sarcastic county attorney makes a joke about quilting, and they all depart. Mrs. Wright's secret is safe.

scarletpimpernel eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Similarities:

Both women, in the end by protecting Minnie Wright, demonstrate a weariness of male condescension and a "stick-together" mentality.  They are willing to keep information from their husbands if it means helping another woman.

Both also are very familiar with domestic tasks and the consequences of isolation from other females.

Differences:

The two women are very different in their personalities.  Mrs. Hale is much more outspoken, and of the two, she is certainly the leader.  Mrs. Peters has to be nudged a little to go along with the plan to hide the evidence against Minnie Wright, and she comes across as nervous and meek.

Mrs. Hale is also not easily persuaded as Mrs. Peters is.  While Mrs. Peters first focuses on the horror of John Wrights' murder, Mrs. Hale is immediately willing to assume that he killed the bird and deserved whatever he got.