Does Susan Glaspell's Trifles sympathize at all with the male characters---sheriff, the county attorney, the neighbor and John Wright?

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carol-davis eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the play Trifles by Susan Glaspell, the men are portrayed as condescending toward women.  The play centers on the murder of John Wright who died in his bed by strangulation.  His wife Minnie has been charged with the crime. 

When the play begins, the County Attorney, the neighbors Mr. and Mrs. Hale, and the Sheriff and his wife have come to collect things to take to Minnie in jail. In addition, the men want to look around the murder scene upstairs clues.

The play belongs to the women.  They have more open minds about looking at the life of Minnie and John Wright.  Minnie's life has been less than stellar.  Her clothes were shabby.  As a young girl, Minnie dressed well, sang in the choir, and was pretty.  What changed Minnie?

The men never stop to think why such a meek and retiring woman would ever consider killing her husband. The clues that the men fail to notice suggest that their investigation really is not to prove Minnie innocent but to prove her guilty. The men only see what is on the surface--a dirty towel, pots and pans out of place, an empty bird cage.  None of these things bring to their minds anything except the thought that Minnie is a poor housekeeper. 

The author does not portray the men kindly. They have a chauvinistic attitude toward the women. The comments made by the men about the women indicate that they feel that women only have the capability of thinking about trivial things in life.

County Attorney: (Opens the door of a cupboard closet. Gets up on a chair and looks on a shelf.  Pulls his hand away, sticky.) Here's a nice mess!

Mrs Peters: Oh, her fruit; it did freeze.

Sheriff: Well, can you beat the women! Held for murder and worrying about her preserves...

Hale: Well, women are used to worrying over trilfes.

County Attorney: And yet (with a bow to Mrs. Hale) for all their worries, what would we do without the ladies?

In the end of the play, the women decide not to share what they have found about the motive for the murder.  Obviously, the men would not understand why Minnie felt compelled to murder her husband. The author gives no sympathy to the men.

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