Was the murder justified in Trifles? Why do the women conceal the evidence?

The women in Trifles do not share the evidence they find nor their theories with the men because they believe that Mrs. Wright was justified. Whether you agree will depend on your moral beliefs, although if Mrs. Wright killed her husband in self-defense, this would not be murder and would be relatively easy to justify.

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Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters do not exactly conceal the evidence. They simply do not bring it to the attention of the men. They do this because they feel the killing of Mr. Wright was justified. There may be some underlying irritation at the patronizing attitude of the men which makes them reluctant to speak out. Essentially, however, they keep quiet because they believe justice has already been done.

Whether you agree will depend on your personal views. If Mrs. Wright killed her husband in self-defense, this is fairly easy to justify, since she has no alternative but to die herself. Even if evidence of killing in self-defense were brought to trial, it would not be considered murder. If one does not accept that Mrs. Wright had to kill her husband to protect her own life, the question arises of whether his cruelty provided her with moral justification. Was there anything else she could or ought to have done? Mrs. Hale seems to think that Mrs. Wright was completely isolated, but what might have happened if, for instance, she had approached her neighbors and explained the situation?

The focus of the play through the eyes of the two women tends to predispose audience members to regard Mrs. Wright sympathetically. This effect is intensified by the way in which Hale, Peters, and Henderson, though not cruel, treat the two women like children and fail to take them seriously. Given these circumstances, there is a presumption in favor of Mrs. Wright, but there are various perfectly tenable moral positions which would find her actions unjustified.

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In my opinion, the murder in Trifles was extremely justified. The women conceal the evidence of the murder, including Mrs. Wright's beloved bird whose neck was snapped by Mr. Wright, because it would be absurd for Mrs. Wright to be arrested for murder just because she wanted the torment her husband put her through to end. The play shows Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters allying with Mrs. Wright to help protect her from the men of the town who are intent of using the legal system that they control to defend Mr. Wright's cruel and indefensible life. The men in the play are violent, dismissive of their wives, and just downright mean. This is rarely considered a caricature; however, the play is considered to accurately describe the anger women in the early 20th century felt towards the men in their lives.

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Many people believe murder is never justified, but the reader of Trifles is meant to understand Mrs. Wright's motivation in murdering her husband. The women who unofficially look for evidence to understand the murder find Mrs. Wright's pet bird with its neck wrung. They compare her to a bird, as they say she was sweet but a bit "fluttery." When they find the dead bird, they immediately understand what might have happened. Perhaps Mr. Wright, a solemn and reserved man, killed his wife's bird, prompting her to kill him.

The killing of her bird operates on both literal and metaphorical levels. Mrs. Wright loved her pet, so her husband's destruction of her bird would have hurt her. In addition, she is much like the bird, as she was once lively but was silenced by her seemingly loveless and childless marriage. The women decide to hide the evidence of the dead bird to protect Mrs. Wright, as they seem to understand and sympathize with her plight.

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The murder was justified if Mrs. Wright killed her husband in self-defense.

It is always difficult to say what justifies one person killing another, but there is evidence that Mrs. Wright might have killed her husband in self-defense.  First of all, she seems to have been in shock when she was found.  Second, we know that he killed her bird.  That indicates that he was violent.  If the women covered up evidence because they believed that she killed him in self-defense, it makes their actions make much more sense.

She was rockin’ back and forth. She had her apron in her hand and was kind of—pleating it.

Mrs. Wright seems unaware of her surroundings and barely able to answer questions when she is found and questioned.  Her repetitive behavior and odd affect might show that she is still in shock from being attacked.

The women compare Mrs. Wright to a bird.  They find the bird with a snapped neck.  When discussing the dead bird, it seems obvious what happened to it.

MRS. PETERS (moving uneasily). We don’t know who killed the bird.

MRS. HALE. I knew John Wright.

Although it may not be as obvious that he was rough with her, the women talk about how she was isolated on the farm, and never left it any more.  She used to be active and social, and after she was married she was alone.  Her husband choked the life out of her, figuratively, just like he did with that bird.  It is not much of a stretch to assume he might have lost his temper and attacked her, and she defended herself. 

There is evidence of Mrs. Wright’s terror everywhere in the house, and evidence of Mr. Wright’s temper there too.  Clearly, it seems, the women think that he snapped and attacked her, and she snapped and killed him.  So, it was self-defense.  They decide to clean up the evidence that implicates her.

The men in this story do not understand what is really going on, because they do not understand what Mrs. Wright went through.  The women look at the evidence that the men do not see, and come to a conclusion that the men do not.  

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