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.
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.
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.