What are the social issues in Trifles?

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The principal social issues in Trifles are domestic abuse and various matters related to the punishment of crime. The issue of domestic abuse is clear. Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters discover that John Wright was an abusive husband who went so far as to strangle his wife's canary. This cruel...

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The principal social issues in Trifles are domestic abuse and various matters related to the punishment of crime. The issue of domestic abuse is clear. Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters discover that John Wright was an abusive husband who went so far as to strangle his wife's canary. This cruel and tyrannical behavior was enabled, as domestic abuse often is, by the isolation in which the Wrights lived. John Wright seems to have curtailed Minnie Wright's social contact, and Mrs. Hale wishes she had kept up her acquaintance and visited the gloomy farmhouse from time to time. This raises the issue of the role and responsibilities of neighbors in preventing domestic abuse.

When the two women have worked out the sequence of events, Mrs. Peters says to Mrs. Hale that the "law has got to punish crime." This raises several issues. Should the law be strictly applied in all cases? What, if any, factors can justify or mitigate murder? When, if ever, is one morally justified in breaking the law or withholding evidence? The play is constructed to allow the audience to act as jury and presents them with various mitigating factors which would encourage an acquittal.

It is notable that the short story based on Trifles is called "A Jury of Her Peers." Proponents of jury trials often point out that a jury will sometimes acquit even when the evidence against the accused is clear, since they are concerned with moral justice rather than the letter of the law. Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters adopt this approach and encourage the audience to sympathize with a murderer by stressing the mitigating factors.

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