The one-act play Trifles by Susan Glaspell is about a murder investigation that takes place in a remote farmhouse. Mrs. Wright has been arrested and accused of strangling her husband with a length of rope. Sheriff Henry Peters, a local farmer named Lewis Hale, and the county attorney George Henderson have come to the Wright home to look for clues. Accompanying them are Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters. The women remain in the kitchen while the men go about the house and grounds searching for evidence.
The entire play takes place in the kitchen of the farmhouse, which Glaspell describes in a note at the beginning. She writes immediately that the kitchen is "gloomy." Under the sink are unwashed pans, outside the breadbox sits a loaf of bread, and on the table is a dishtowel. Gloomy means dark, depressing, and melancholy. This atmosphere combined with the mess in the kitchen immediately creates feelings of tension and foreboding in the audience. There is also a stove that was lit earlier on the sheriff's instructions, a rocking chair that Mrs. Wright was sitting in when she was found, a quilt that Mrs. Wright was working on, and a broken bird cage.
The overall impression of the kitchen is that it is a sad, cheerless place from which Mrs. Wright was taken while she was in the midst of her work. The setting and atmosphere do not change during the course of the play. The room remains consistently dark and melancholy. This fits the somber task of a murder investigation and provides insight into the lonely, joyless life that Mrs. Wright lived with her abusive husband.
The bleak, cheerless atmosphere contributes to the women's insights into what really happened between Mr. and Mrs. Wright. They come to the conclusion that Mrs. Wright probably did kill her husband, but that it may have been justified because of his abusive behavior. As a result, they withhold the evidence they find from the men in an effort to protect Mrs. Wright.