What is the major theme of the Trifles play?  

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M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The play Trifles, by Susan Glaspell treats the theme of spousal abuse from a series of perspectives that give away the real problem with women in society: Their lack of acceptance, their unequal treatment, and the need to understand a cry for help.

Trifles's setting and opening begins at an isolated home, which constitutes the scene of the crime that has been committed by Minnie Wright against her abusive husband. Minnie is the main character that is never seen on stage, while Mrs. Peters and Mrs. Hale (the wives of the Sheriff and the Detective who come to observe the scene) make the bulk of most of the plot.

As the women look around the scene while their husbands investigate the house, they find key things that allow them to understand that Minnie Wright must have acted in some form of self defense. The house is incredibly untidy, the stitching made by Minnie is disparate and intensely awkward, and the women begin to wonder if Minnie's isolation has anything to do with her husband. After all, she changes tremendously towards the worse after she gets married.  This happens when, in the most climactic moment of the play, the women see a dead bird, hidden inside a box, with its head twisted. This is when the women connect all the dots and the declining action begins: Minnie Wright must have snapped from a deep moment of shock after witnessing her abusive husband kill her only companion, which is her canary. This is the moment when Minnie has had enough and plans her husband's murder.

In the end, the women silently agree to hide the evidence that incriminates Minnie. It is a secret and silent pact from one woman defending another.

Therefore, the main themes involve how Minnie's state of isolation and abuse leads her to lose her mind and kill her husband. Yet, right before being investigated, she had already been judged by the Sheriff and the detective. They immediately had cause to criticize the state of her kitchen and the unkempt home. In other words, women can only be good for one thing, and it is to be subservient.