In Glaspell’s play Trifles, what is it that the men see as “trifles”? 

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M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Susan Glaspell's play Trifles shows how blind chauvinism and overall disregard for the needs of women leads men to disregard the capacities of females to do both good and bad. Minnie Wright, a longtime abused wife, seems to have snapped and killed her husband John. The play is set at the Wright household, which is the scene of the crime that is currently being investigated by the Sheriff and the district attorney. Mr. Hale, a witness, has been called to give information.

The wife of Mr. Hale, Mrs. Hale, is also in the scene along with the Sherrif's wife, Mrs. Peters. While the men set off to investigate the usual clues the women, using their female instincts, start to see things that the men consider trivial. The first thing that the men find to be a trifle is the women's preoccupation with Minnie's compote. This could be a trifle for them, but not for Minne nor for the women. This shows that Minnie, who will be wrongly judged as a bad housewife by the men, does care about her home, and her duties as a home maker.

The second thing that the men find as a trifle is a piece of stitching that Minnie has worked on in a seemingly erratic and nervous way. The men argue that the females worrying about the stitching is silly. However, the women know better. This leisure activity, which is meant to be done for relaxation, is not meant to look erratic, nor nervously made. Something really bad must have been happening to Minnie for her to do that.

Another thing that the men do not understand is the reason behind the unkempt home. Little do they imagine that Minnie, as an abused wife, had few chances to make her home beautiful. Moreover, perhaps John, himself, was destroying the home as he destroyed his marriage. However, to the men, it was all Minnie's fault.

When the women find the dead canary and connect it to the broken birdcage they realized exactly what happened. Minnie's only companion was killed, so she killed its killer, who was also her husband, and her abuser.