What are the trifles that the men ignore and the two women notice, and why does this happen?

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karaejacobi eNotes educator| Certified Educator

As their husbands examine the house/crime scene in the more typical manner that we would expect of the police, Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters observe some of the areas where Mrs. Wright seems to have spent most of her time. They have been tasked with collecting some domestic items that Mrs. Wright has requested to have with her in prison. They look around the kitchen and observe that Mrs. Wright "had bread set." She was apparently interrupted finishing the bread and canning her fruit. This creates sympathy between these two characters and Mrs. Wright, who is a suspect in her husband's murder. Mrs. Hale recalls canning her own fruit during the previous summer and sighs. 

Next, the women notice Mrs. Wright's quilt, which seems to have been in progress. Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters discuss Mrs. Wright's quilting technique and infer that she was upset because her sewing became erratic. Mrs. Hale corrects "a stitch or two," which is effectively tampering with evidence. Again, the women sympathize with Mrs. Wright and connect her presumed activities to their own experiences.

Finally, the women encounter the bird cage, which has a broken door. They also find the bird with a broken neck in "a pretty box" while looking for Mrs. Wright's scissors (they have decided to bring Mrs. Wright her quilt and supplies in prison). The women connect the bird to Mrs. Wright herself—formerly Minnie Foster—who used to love to sing. They think that her husband has shut down her love for singing and been generally oppressive. They infer that after Mr. Wright killed the bird, Minnie killed him. They understand and also feel guilty for not being more friendly with her over the years; they ultimately decide to keep the evidence to themselves so that Mrs. Wright will not be found guilty of the crime. 

Overall, the signs the women notice help them solve the crime and understand the motive. However, to their husbands, these signs are mere "trifles" that interest only women. 

Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Some of the "trifles" that the men miss are the arrangement of things in the kitchen, such as the breadbasket.  The emptiness of the bird cage is another "small" thing that the men in the play, the detectives, actually discard.  The cross stitching pattern that was disjointed and crooked, reflecting a sense of fear and a broken notion of attention span, was something that was dismissed.  Additionally, the sewing box, and not paying attention to it, was a minor detail that the men discarded.  These are but a few.  The largest "dismissive trifle" is, of course, the women's conversation.  The men see the women's discussion as gossip, or idle chatter.  They feel that the women's discussion of small or "trivial" matters could in no way lead to a discovery about the murder.  Part of this is myopic vision as both men and detectives.  As men, they feel that women focus on small and mindless matters, contributing to a traditionally narrow focus of women.  This is myopia that also reflects a sense of blindness as detectives.  The women talk about the crime!  They discuss the relationship between the husband and wife, the friction, the problems with both of them and the circumstances that might have led to the murder.  The women also talk about the murder itself, and retrace the steps of how the murder could have happened.  They do this through conversation and discussion.  This is what detectives are supposed to do:  Re-imagine the crime scene and hypothesize as to what could have transpired.  The women do this through conversation and discussion and in doing so, their "trifles" result in a greater detective analysis than the supposed male experts.

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