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Trifles is a one-act play that concerns the murder of Mr. Wright, an abusive husband who was killed by his wife. The characters of the story intend to piece together the events that led up to the death, and they do so by exploring the singular and confined setting of...

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Trifles is a one-act play that concerns the murder of Mr. Wright, an abusive husband who was killed by his wife. The characters of the story intend to piece together the events that led up to the death, and they do so by exploring the singular and confined setting of the play.

As a one-act play, the setting of Trifles is not subject to a great deal of change. Specifically, the entirety of the action takes place in a rural Iowa house. Furthermore, the scenes are almost entirely relegated to the kitchen of the house. The kitchen is in a state of disarray, with several exploded food cans and dishes dirtying the area. The style of kitchen is typical of one in the early 1900s, and the extreme mess that juxtaposes with the clean and pristine stereotype of a kitchen of this type indicates the rage that must have been building in Minnie Wright during the events leading up to the play. As she was never allowed an outlet, she repressed her feelings for many years, with only her close friends noticing the detrimental effect that her husband was having on her. Finally, after her husband killed her bird, she reached a breaking point and emotional explosion, evidenced by the ruined setting.

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The setting of Trifles is the kitchen of the Wrights' farm. It is described as a "gloomy" or dismal place that has been left in disarray. For instance, the bread has been left outside of the breadbox, there are unwashed pans under the sink, and a dishtowel is flung on the table. We learn, too, that the kitchen contains a stove that has been allowed to go out—though the fire has now been relit—and a cupboard, where, when it got cold, Mrs. Wright's glass jars of canned goods exploded. There is a small table in the corner of the room where a pan of bread has been left under a towel to set, and there is a door that leads to a staircase to the second floor. Under the small table with the bread pan, Mrs. Peters finds a large basket, in which are quilting supplies: Minnie Wright was working on a quilt. In the sewing box, they find the dead canary, wrapped in a piece of silk. Because the play was written about 1916, we get a good sense of what a country kitchen was like in that period.

The women, Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters, briefly enter a walk-in closet off the kitchen to gather clothes for Mrs. Wright. Here, it is cold. We also learn from Mrs. Hale that the Wright farmhouse is down in a hollow, in a lonesome place Mrs. Hale didn't like to visit.

By attending to the details in the kitchen, Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters are able to piece together what led to John Wright's murder.

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The place of Susan Glaspell's play, Trifles, is a farmhouse in rural Iowa; the development of the plot occurs mainly in the kitchen.The time is the winter of 1900. 

Interestingly, Glaspell skillfully uses setting as the objective correlative for the atmosphere and the emotional conditions of the characters. T. S. Eliot describes this literary element as

...a set of objects, a situation, a chain of events which shall be the formula of that particular emotion; such that when the external facts, which must terminate in sensory experience, are given, the emotion is immediately evoked. 

  • Place Setting

In Trifles, the place setting of a cold, bitter, lifeless winter and the isolation of the farm acts as the objective correlatives of Minnie Wright's loneliness in an empty farmhouse devoid of the laughter of children and their love, distant from neighbors. As Mrs. Hale, who has a farm nearby, remarks, "We live close together and we live far apart." The Wright farm is in a hollow and it "don't see the road....It's a lonesome place and always was."

Within the kitchen, where warmth from stoves and human hearts should abide, there is a terrible chill as the fire has gone out when the county attorney, the sheriff and his wife, and a neighbor and his wife arrive. In the cupboards, jelly jars containing the fruits that Mrs. Wright grew, picked, cooked, and preserved have frozen and cracked. These frozen jars and ruined fruit correlate with the coldness of Mr. Wright's heart that has wrought this painful loneliness and suffering in Mrs. Wright. 
Also within the cupboards is the dead canary, the bird who gave voice to Minnie Wright's solitary soul, but it has been silenced by the authoritarian husband.

  • Time Setting

Also acting as an objective correlative is the time setting of 1900. During this era women possessed little voice in the affairs of men, or even in their homes. Not only was their repression widespread, but they were often oppressed in their homes, victims of emotional neglect or abuse. The torn clothing of a woman who once was pert, attractively dressed, and part of the church choir, suggests Mrs. Wright's neglect as do the erratic stitches in the quilt she was making.
The evidence of this oppression convinces the women in the kitchen, the wife of the sheriff and the neighbor, that Mrs. Wright was much more a victim than the perpetrator of a crime.

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