What is the meaning of the title "Trifles" by Glaspell?

Expert Answers
laurniko eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The title Trifles refers to both the clues the women use to solve the case and the things the men miss because they see them as womanly.

The word trifle refers to something "of little value or importance." In the play, the Sheriff Henry Peters, attorney George Henderson, and Lewis Gale go to the home of a married couple, the Wrights, to investigate the death of John Wright. His wife, Minnie, is locked up for his murder.

Because the men dismiss things that they see as feminine—like a sewing box, for example—they aren't able to solve the murder. They even decide to skip doing a thorough search of the kitchen because they don't see how a place with kitchen things could be relevant. When Mrs. Peters sees the preserves that Minnie Wright asked her to check on, Hale says they're just trifles and none of the men see them as relevant to the investigation. Instead, they're amused that she is concerned. Glaspell writes:

MRS PETERS: (to the other woman) Oh, her fruit; it did freeze, (to the LAWYER) She worried about that when it turned so cold. She said the fire'd go out and her jars would break.

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 women, on the other hand, notice all the minor clues that the men miss. The state of her clothing, a messy table, and a broken birdcage all paint a picture that reveals to the women that Minnie killed her husband. The trifles the men dismiss reveal the truth, but they aren't willing to consider that evidence. In the end, though, the women decide to hide the evidence from their husbands and the attorney. 

pmiranda2857 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Trifles or insignificant acts with little or no real meaning is exactly the opposite of what goes on in the play "Trifles."   The author makes a statement about the treatment of women in society.

‘‘Glaspell intended to show that women in the domestic sphere were vulnerable to the brutality of men like John Wright, but she also dramatizes the powerful sense of solidarity women shared and assumes that this solidarity was somehow responsible for superior female morality.’’

The world of women is reduced to the activities of the farmhouse which are trifles or insignificant in the world of men.  The plot revolves around the acute awareness of the women in this play who are much smarter than the men who fail to notice clues that the women pick up because the men don't pay attention to the activities of housework or women's work, they are trifles, not important.

"In simple terms, Trifles suggests that men tend to be aggressive, brash, rough, analytical and self-centered; in contrast, women are more circumspect, deliberative, intuitive, and sensitive to the needs of others. It is these differences that allows Mrs. Peters and Mrs. Hale to find the clues needed to solve the crime, while their husbands miss the same clues."

The title draws attention to women's issues, suggesting that all issues relating to women in this period, 1916, were considered trifles.  Women fought for decades to secure the right to vote, which did not come until 1920.