In Susan Glaspell's play, Trifles, Mrs. Minnie Wright has been accused of murdering her husband as he slept. A group of men and a pair of women arrive at the beginning of the play, entering the Wrights' cold and gloomy home. The men are intent upon finding evidence with which to condemn Mrs. Wright. The women are there to collect clothing and personal items to take to Minnie while she is in jail.
As the women search for things Mrs. Wright can use, they come across a battered bird cage in a cabinet. The door has been half ripped off its hinge. This is puzzling as there is no bird about. As the women continue, they find Mrs. Wright's sewing box, and inside, wrapped in a piece of silk (to show its worth to Mrs. Wright) is the dead bird.
MRS. HALE. …I expect this has got sewing things in it (Brings out a fancy box.) What a pretty box. Looks like something somebody would give you. Maybe her scissors are in here. (Opens box. Suddenly puts her hand to her nose.) Why-- (Mrs. Peters bend nearer, then turns her face away.) There's something wrapped up in this piece of silk.
MRS. PETERS. Why, this isn't her scissors.
MRS. HALE (lifting the silk.) Oh, Mrs. Peters--it's-- (Mrs. Peters bends closer.)
MRS. PETERS. It's the bird.
MRS. HALE (jumping up.) But, Mrs. Peters--look at it. Its neck! Look at its neck! It's all--other side to.
MRS. PETERS. Somebody--wrung--its neck. (Their eyes meet. A look of growing comprehension of horror.)
Clearly the women understand that Mr. Wright murdered the bird; it would have been one bright spot in this dark home in which Mrs. Wright lived. And the women remember that when she was younger and single, she was lovely, and she sang in the church choir. The bird would have meant a great deal to Mrs. Wright. Mr. Wright's brutality and total disregard for his wife is apparent. In face of this emotional and mental abuse of the woman, Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters believe that the death of the bird was Mrs. Wright's motive for killing her husband. He destroyed the one beautiful thing in her unhappy, lonely, childless home: and she snapped.
As the women perceive how little the men truly understand the difficult life of a woman, particularly a wife, a division rises between the women and the men, and the ladies choose not to share their discovery, so as to prevent the men from finding the evidence they are searching for to convict Mrs. Wright of murder.