Critically analyze "Trifles" by Susan Glaspell from a feminist approach. 

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carol-davis eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The play “Trifles” by Susan Glaspell exposes the traditional view of women in 1916. The men in the play express the current thinking of the masculine dominated world: women were incapable of doing anything but collecting the things that Minnie Wright needed while she was in jail.  The men would do the thinking and investigating of the crime. 

A victim of homicide, John Wright was found dead in his upstairs bedroom with a rope around his neck.  He had been strangled to death.  His wife was in bed. Her version stated that she was a deep sleeper, and had no idea what happened.  Minnie Wright was charged with the murder.

The setting for the play is the downstairs area of the Wright home.  The bedroom versus the kitchen portrays the typical male-dominated world. The women belong in the kitchen. 

The characters in the play include the county attorney; Sheriff Peters and his wife; neighbors Mr. and Mrs. Hale; and Minnie Wright, who is never seen  but is the subject of the play.

As soon as the men come into the scene, they have a dialogue of demeaning commentary, not only of Minnie Wright but also the other ladies.  The county attorney indicts Minnie for having a messy kitchen. Mr. Hale states that women are used to worrying about “trifles.” These comments draw the women together to help Minnie.

The women move about the kitchen reconstructing Minnie’s sad life.  They notice the insignificant things that they men would not  think important.  Through their observations and discussion, the women become a united force in which Minnie Wright is as much a victim as John Wright. 

As the play progresses, Mrs. Hale feels guilt for not being a better neighbor. As she looks around the kitchen, Mrs. Hale begins to empathize with the Minnie’s life.  She serves to give the details of Minnie’s life.

Mrs. Peters symbolizes a woman who attempts to see everything from an intellectual view sans emotions.  As a dynamic character and as the play progresses, her emotions become involved with her logic.  Despite the repeated idea that the women must abide by the law, Mrs. Peters realizes that everything is not black and white. 

Through Mrs. Hale, the audience learns that John Wright was a hard man. Minnie had been a pretty girl, who liked to sing.  After she married John, she changed. They had no children. She never went anywhere.  They find a quilt that she was making.

A bird cage sits empty in a closet.  The door had been ripped from his hinges.  A pretty box held the body of the bird with its neck twisted. Together the women realize that the bird symbolizes the strangulation of Minnie throughout her married like.

From these facts, the women piece together the crime: Minnie loved the bird, enjoyed its company, and liked to listen to it sing. John Wright resented the bird and was annoyed by its noise.  He told Minnie to get rid of it, or he would.  John rips open the door, and wrings the neck of the bird.  Something in Minnie snaps, and she stops John Wright from hurting her any more.

County Attorney: It’s all perfectly clear except for a reason for doing it. But you know juries when it comes to women. There was some definite thing…a thing that would connect with this strange way of doing it.

The  information should be divulged to the authorities; however, the ladies without discussing it keep the information to themselves. The women solve the crime, not for themselves but for Minnie and the sisterhood of the women.