In Trifles by Susan Glaspell, what details about the murder can be drawn from the women's dialogue? In addition, what would have convicted Minnie Wright?

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carol-davis eNotes educator| Certified Educator

John Wright’s murder was obviously perpetrated by his wife Minnie.  How the husband was killed is not the issue in the play; more important to the drama are the reasons that his wife felt compelled to end her husband’s life. The one act play Trifles by Susan Glaspell divides the characters into two distinct groups: men and women. 

From the moment the men come into the Wright home, it is obvious that the men do not feel that women can handle themselves in a serious situation.  The title of the play comes from the statement that women are used to dealing only with the trifles of life---the unimportant aspects of life.  The County Attorney repeatedly comments on the poor housekeeping of Minnie Wright.  While the men look for clues upstairs with Wright’s body, the women are left to gather things to take to Minnie who has been placed in jail. 

What do the women discover that could have convicted Minnie of her husband’s murder if they men had been privy to the information?

  1. Minnie took great care of her canning.
  2. Stitches in Minnie’s quilt were poorly sewn indicating that something had happened while she was working on it because the rest of the sewing was so well done.
  3. The Wright’s had no children; Minnie was probably lonely.
  4. An empty bird cage was found with the door ripped off its hinges.
  5. Mrs. Peters discovers the bird with its neck broken.
  6. The women surmise that the bird was killed by John Wright possibly out of annoyance or because he wanted to hurt Minnie. 
  7. Mrs. Hale states that John Wright would have been hard to live with.
  8. Both women through their own experiences realize that Minnie Wright was driven to kill her husband by his abuse of her.

Mrs. Hale, the neighbor, strongly supports Minnie; however, Mrs. Peters, the sheriff's wife, has a harder time coming to the conclusion that this is not a black and white issue. 

 Mrs. Hale: She liked that bird. She was going to bury it in that pretty box.

Mrs. Peters: It was an awful thing was done in this house that night. 

Mrs. Hale: If there’d been years and years of nothing, then a bird to sing to you.  It would be awful…

In the last minute, the women decide not to tell the men which probably saves Minnie’s life.  If they h ad shared the trifles that they had discovered, the women would have provided the motive that the men could not find.