What is the language of Trifles?

The language of Trifles is the ordinary language of police and farm people in early twentieth-century America, but it is also the language of patriarchy. The men use language to assert their superiority and put the women down. The women use their own, more domestic language, to unravel the murder. They also find power in silence.

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In Trifles, the dialogue is simple and natural. The women, left alone in the kitchen while the men go up to the bedroom to investigate Mr. Wright's death, speak of commonplace events and items of the time period, such as washing dishes, canning, or stitching a quilt. They notice mundane details, such as the sudden change in Mrs. Wright's stitching or the broken door on the canary's cage. They speak in what we today might call a woman's language of domesticity that reflects the reiterative or repeated cycle of life that is their world: the dishes, the cooking, the canning.

The men, in contrast, speak in the patriarchal language of the "dominant" gender. They belittle what the women say after Mrs. Peters notices that Mrs. Wright's fruit preserves have frozen and exploded:

SHERIFF: Well, can you beat the women! Held for murder and worryin' about her preserves.

COUNTY ATTORNEY: I guess before we're through she may have something more serious than preserves to worry about.

HALE: Well, women are used to worrying over trifles.

The men show their arrogance and blindness in being unable to perceive the significance of the "trifles" the women notice. They are incapable of "reading" the language of a woman's world because, to them, it is beneath notice.

The women intuitively realize that Mrs. Wright won't get justice in a court of law, because law reflects the language of patriarchy rather than the reality of women's lives. They therefore use the "language" of silence to protect their own.

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