In Susan Glaspell's one-act play, "Trifles," what are the major tensions?

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booboosmoosh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The major tensions in the play "Trifles" are found in the two "sides" represented in the room of the Wright household.

Mrs. Wright has been discovered rocking in her chair, as her murdered husband lies dead in their bed.

The men are investigating the scene of the crime, looking for clues to convict Mrs. Wright of murder. This is where some tensions lie.

The other tensions in the play come from the women, but they are many in number. At first, Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters are simply there to gather a few belongings to take to Mrs. Wright at the jail. When one of the men dismisses the hard work women do and the "trifles" of keeping a household over which they worry, tension erupts as the women resent the men's dismissive attitudes.

Tensions also arise with the women when they find an empty bird cage in the cupboard, and ultimately, the body of a dead canary—wrapped in a sewing basket as if waiting to be buried—looking like it was intentionally killed. Two different kinds of tensions arise here. They develop a sense of sympathy for the woman in living with such a cold man, and they finally understand how she could have been driven, by her husband's hateful act, to kill him for destroying the one beautiful thing she had in her life.

On the heels of this tension is their decision to keep their discovery secret.

Finally, the women feel a tension of wishing they had done more to befriend Mrs. Wright, they feel less connected to the men for their casual lack of concern for the plight of a hard-working wife, and they decide, though they have been "well-behaved, traditional" wives up until now, to keep what they have learned a secret in an effort to not only protect Mrs. Wright, but perhaps in an effort to thwart the men's attempts to prove Mrs. Wright's guilt.