What are the other characters' contributions towards heightening the conflict faced by the main character in Trifles?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Susan Glaspell's one act play, Trifles, there is clearly a gender conflict. The male/female conflict exists in the Wright household, and a more subtle one occurs among the men and women who investigate the Wright home after the death of John Wright.  This conflict is a psychological one of perspective: What is important to women is often considered mere "trifles" to their men.  For instance, when Mrs. Peters remarks that after she has been arrested Mrs. Wright worries that her preserves may freeze, Mr. Hale comments, "Well, women are used to worrying over trifles." Here is an indication that men often dismiss what they perceive as small matters when they very well may be of paramount importance to women.

Thus, the erratic stitching that occurs on a quilt when all the other is "so nice and even" and the discovery of an empty birdcage, whose door is unhinged, and the canary, whose neck has been "wrung," take on great significance to the women who deduce that the "nervous" Mrs. Wright must have killed her husband.  For, the singing canary has been important to Mrs. Wright, who once sang in a choir herself and whose life now has become so desolate and mirthless.

MRS. HALE   I wonder how it would seem never to have any children around. (Pause) No, Wright wouldn't like the bird--a thing that sang.  She used to sing.  He killed that, too....If there'd been years and years of nothing, then a bird to sing to you, it would be awful--still, after the bird was still.

MRS. PETERS  I know what stillness is. When we homestead in Dakota, and my first baby died--after was two years old, and me with no other then--

As the women's comprehension of the inner turmoil and melancholy of Mrs. Wright is heightened, their empathy increases and they decide against revealing their knowledge of Mrs. Wright's motives to the men. Their understanding of the details of Mrs. Wright's life certainly magnify the conflict which she has had with the hardened and cruel Mr. Wright. 

shoshona eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The above is a great answer. I would add that the short story title of this play is "A Jury of her Peers." This may lead you to some more ideas about how the other characters contribute to the conflict.  Noting the importance of the "triffles" found in Mrs. Wright's home that reveal motive for murdering Mr. Wright, the women also hold a coded conversation in which they find the evidence, examine her motives, and then must decide if they will tell the men or keep it to themselves and judge her as innocent.  In the end of the story, they are about to make up their minds when the men come back joking about the quilt Mrs. Wright had been working on and ask was she going to stitch or knot it.  The answer "knot it" is again code indicating that Mrs. Wright knotted the rope around Mr. Wright's neck, but the men cannot understand the women's world and think this is just another "triffle."