The frigid winter setting of an isolated farm house in Iowa in 1900 certainly presents a "lonesome" place where a childless woman is left to herself for long intervals. When Mrs. Hale accompanies the sheriff's wife inside the farm house,
Even after she had her foot on the doorstep, her hand on the know, Martha Hale had a moment of feeling she could not cross the threshold....simply because she hadn't crossed it before. Time and time again it had been in her mind...And then there was always something to do and Minnie Foster would go from her mind.
The neglect of the kitchen with its dirty towel and broken and dingy, worn out rocking chair seem out of character for Minnie Foster, perhaps pointing to a person who is depressed. As the county attorney and the sheriff and Mr. Hale go upstairs and search for clues to the motive, the women explore further the kitchen and discover "things begun and not finished." For instance, there is a half empty bag beside the sugar bucket, and one half of the table has been wiped clean, but the other has not. The quilt upon which Mrs. Wright has been working has some rather erratic stitching, so Mrs. Hale takes it. Holding this block of the quilt bothers Mrs. Hale,
...as if the distracted thoughts of the woman who had perhaps turned to it to try and quiet herself were communicating themselves to her.
Just then, Mrs. Peters discovers a birdcage when she opens a cupboard for the things to take Mrs. Wright--a clear turning point in the search for evidence of a motive. Mrs. Hale's and Mrs. Peters's eyes meet after they notice how the hinge on the cage door has been broken. Then, after the discovery of the dead canary with its neck wrung, Mrs. Peters and Mrs. Hale understand how a lonely woman with only a canary to bring a little cheer in her isolated life could have committed the murder of her husband.