What is the relationship between Mrs. Peters and Mrs. Hale in "Trifles"?
Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters are two women who are basically acquaintances and who are united in this play by their husbands. The men are investigating a crime scene: Mr. Wright has been murdered and his wife is the suspect. The women are tasked with gathering some items for Mrs. Wright that she may need while she sits at the jail.
At first, Mrs. Peters is the more transgressive of the women. This may be surprising considering she is the wife of the town sheriff. However, it is evident rather early on that she is disposed to sympathize with Mrs. Wright, formerly known as Minnie Foster. When Mrs. Peters corrects a dropped stitch that may give her husband a clue to Mrs. Wright's distracted mental state, Mrs. Hale does not at first approve. She understands that Mrs. Peters is tampering with evidence. However, later in the play, Mrs. Hale becomes more sympathetic toward her former friend, Minnie Foster. When the women find the dead bird, Mrs. Hale remembers how Minnie used to love to sing and infers that her husband has killed her voice in addition to or along with her beloved bird (a symbol of Minnie). Mrs. Hale feels guilty that she was not a better friend to Minnie after the two women married their respective husbands. She senses that Minnie was lonely and could've used a friend. This guilt triggers most of Mrs. Hale's sympathy and motivates her to hide the dead bird in her pocket. When we meet Mrs. Hale at the start of the play, we would not have expected such an action from her, so this shows her dynamic character's evolution in a short time.
Ultimately, the women unite with each other and with their fellow female character Minnie Foster / Mrs. Wright. The play depicts the genders as separated by their roles and concerns. Unfortunately for the men, their notion that women's concerns are "trifles" means they cannot solve the crime, while their wives figure it out and, to take it a step further, cover for the wife with whom they identify.
Like all the characters in this play - all the residents in this fictional town - there is a reserve that exists between these two woman. They are focused on their own home life and so do not form a bond between them. In addition, Mrs. Peters is an outsider and did not grow up with Minnie or Mrs. Hale - therefore, she is further removed from the situation and from her fellow wife.
This separation between these two women is echoed in Minnie's situation and the cause for the conflict of the story, the murder of her husband. Minnie has been separated from others, at the mercy of her husband alone. She is isolated, lonely, and unprotected. She lives "down in the hollow" and is far removed from other homes. This sets up the bad situation in her marriage, which leads to her retaliation.
The relationship between the two characters changes throughout the play, however. One of the themes of this story is that of gender roles, and the way Mrs. Peters and Mrs. Hale grow closer as they try to understand and protect Minnie shows these gender roles. As women, they understand the difficulty Minnie was facing and the intensity of her subjugation. This is why the decide, together, to conceal the evidence of Minnie's guilt, forming a bond in their mutual decision - female against male.
In this play, the two women know each other but are not close friends. Mrs. Peters is the wife of the sheriff and she lives in town. She is considered "married to the law" and didn't grow up in the area, making her a bit of an outsider. Her story about the boy who killed her kitten with a hatchet in front of her helps us understand as readers how much she identifies with Mrs. Minnie Wright and her seeking revenge over her murdered canary.
Mrs. Hale and Minnie Wright were life-long friends. They both grew up in the area, went to school together, and have similar lives. Mrs. Hale feels guilt and regret for not visiting Minnie more often and perhaps, by being a better friend, she could have helped prevent the murder of John Wright.
They are connected by their gender and by the feelings they share every time the men make some silly comment about women's work and the unimportance of it all. In fact, the important evidence is indeed found among the "unimportant" kitchen things that the men dismiss.
Despite the differences of these two women, they silently agree to hide the evidence that would prove Minnie Wright's guilt by putting the dead bird wrapped in silk cloth in Mrs. Hale's coat pocket instead of sharing what they've found with the men.