What key events have occurred before the start of the play? Why do you suppose these events are not presented in the play itself?

The play starts off with the fact that there has been a murder at a farmhouse. The sheriff and witnesses are baffled as to how this happened, but they all make the same connection: it must have been Minnie Wright who killed her husband John Wright. The way they know this is because of certain events that took place before the murder. Mrs. Hale had sensed something was wrong when she saw Minnie wearing shabby garments and performing domestic labor alone in her isolated home. Mrs. Hale then visited Minnie, but was turned away by John Wright himself after he mistreated his wife and locked her up in the house. Minnie's spirit seemed to vanish after this abuse, and this is when Mrs.

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The events that lead to what takes place right at the start of the play are mentioned in the play, but in the form of memories and connections to what just happened.

The events are not narrated in a linear way because the play focuses on figuring out what took...

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The events that lead to what takes place right at the start of the play are mentioned in the play, but in the form of memories and connections to what just happened.

The events are not narrated in a linear way because the play focuses on figuring out what took place at the Wright household, based on the facts provided. It is more of a detective quest than it is a "story line" within a play.

Making connections makes a deeper impact than having to explain events extensively to the audience. Moreover, the play also focuses on the fact that two women who have no training in law, or law enforcement, are able to piece together a crime scene, complete with a motive and murder weapon.

All they did was utilize their knowledge about what it feels like to be a woman in a deeply patriarchal society where women are ignored and lack a lot of basic rights. Still, while they do this remarkable accomplishment, they are basically pushed aside. Their comments and ideas are seen as "trifles."

The present:

The first thing we know, is that the woman who is now being held at the sheriff's station on suspicion of the death of her husband is a woman who is in a delicate state of mind.

She is the prime suspect of killing her husband, John Wright. For this reason, the sheriff, county attorney, and a witness, John Hale, are at the scene of the crime conducting an investigation.

Because the woman seems to be in a frazzled state, the sheriff asks his wife to come along and take care of Minnie Wright's belongings to take back to the station. John Hale, the witness, also brings his wife, Mrs. Hale.

The past events

Minnie's past

  • Minnie Wright (formerly known as Minnie Foster) was, prior to her marriage, a nicely-dressed young woman who loved to sing and appeared to be happy.
  • After marrying farmer John Wright, she immediately becomes isolated from her peers. She is no longer seen around, nor does she sing in church anymore. She stops wearing nice clothes. She seems to be spending a lot of time alone in her home, as well. She only resurfaces after the death of her husband, of which she is the prime suspect. This is how her life leads us to the start of the play.

Mrs. Hale's past

  • Mrs. Hale, a fellow farmer's wife, is familiar with the temperament and brash behavior of Minnie's husband, John Wright.
  • She knows John Wright because her husband, John Hale, is also a farmer. Mrs. Hale almost immediately makes a connection between the John Wright's attitude and Minnie's sudden lifestyle change:

. . . maybe that's why she kept so much to herself . . . . I suppose she felt she couldn't do her part, and then you don't enjoy things when you feel shabby. She used to wear pretty clothes and be lively, when she was Minnie Foster, . . . But that—oh, that was thirty years ago.

  • Mrs. Hale tried to make contact with Minnie in the past but, by her own admission, the Wright household was too pathetic, too cold, and too unstable for her.
  • She regrets that she was not there for Minnie, but she does get to feel, in her own skin, the suffocating environment that undoubtedly aided to kill the last remnants of Minnie's spirit in that abusive household. These events are what lead her to the start of the play.

Mrs. Peter's past

  • Mrs. Peters, the dutiful wife of the Sheriff, has known her own share of injustice and pain. She was once a mother, and her child died at the age of two. She was once isolated, just like Minnie was, with nothing but her sadness and emptiness.

I know what stillness is. When we homesteaded in Dakota, and my first baby died—after he was two years old, and me with no other then—

  • She also suffers injustice as a child, when a boy took away her kitten and killed with with a hatchet just for the sake of it. She experienced in her own flesh what it feels like taking the life of someone who takes everything we have and love from us.
  • She felt the same anger and rage that Minnie Wright must have felt when her husband John, in one last act of psychological terrorism toward her, wrings the neck of Minnie's only companion: her canary.

The events in Mrs. Peters's past lead her to the way she feels once she starts to understand Minnie's situation.

John Hale

John, the most important witness in this case, was the first to see John Wright dead with a rope around his neck.

He had sufficient knowledge of John Wright. In fact, his key statement comes when he reveals details about his visit to the Wright household.

He and a fellow farmer, Harry, were headed to town carrying potatoes. Then, Hale wonders if he "can't get John Wright to go in with [him] on a party telephone."

The revealing thing about this is that he had spoken to Wright about this same thing before, but John "put him off" saying that he didn't like people talking, and all he wanted was "peace and quiet." This fact justifies what the women said about the house being so silent, bare, and suffocating at the same time.

Another revealing fact is that Hale later says,

I thought maybe if I went to the house and talked about it before his wife, though I said to Harry that I didn't know as what his wife wanted made much difference to John—

This latter comment is dismissed by the County Attorney.

Conclusion: All the events that happened in the lives of each character seem to all lead to the start of the play. The memories of the past, and the personal connections made between the two women, help solidify their suspicions and leads the audience to understand the horrors that led Minnie Wright to do what she did.

She tries to make a connection with Minnie, but the atmosphere of the house is so cold and isolating that she prefers not to associate with the Wrights.
She tries to make a connection with Minnie, but the atmosphere of the house is so cold and isolating that she prefers not to associate with the Wrights.

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Before the play starts, Mr. Hale has already stopped by the Wrights's house and found Mr. Wright hanged. He has also found Mrs. Wright sitting calmly in a rocker. She informed him that Mr. Wright had died when a rope was placed around his neck, and she told Mr. Hale that she had no idea of who killed her husband.

The reason that these events are not presented in the play itself is because the play presents the post mortem, or the process of figuring out how Mr. Wright died. During this process, the local authorities, who are men, and their wives try to piece together the mystery of Mr. Wright's death. In the process, they come to very different conclusions, as the wives are far more attentive to what the men consider "trifles"—the emotional circumstances of Mrs. Wright's life with her husband in a quiet and isolated farmhouse. It is this post mortem that makes up the play, and it's important that the audience not know what exactly happened so that they can see how the characters piece together the mystery of Mr. Wright's death in different ways.

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The main event that happens before the play's action begins is the murder.  The reason the murder is not included in the play is that the play centers on the effects of the murder.  We also do not know for sure who the killer is.

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