Who are the minor characters in "Trifles" by Susan Glaspell, and what is their role in the play?

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booboosmoosh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Susan Glaspell's play titled, "Trifles," the minor roles are those of the men. This would include the County Attorney, the Sheriff, and Mr. Hale. Though minor characters, their roles are important for several reasons.

The men create the depth of the conflict in the story. Although we never meet Mrs. Wright, who has been accused of killing her husband as he slept, the men arrive at her home looking for evidence with which to convict her. In this case, the men are present for the simple purpose of feeding the plot. And as the story progresses forward, the women come to resent what the men are trying to do.

The men are also present in that they are the ones that set the mood of the story in terms of the sense of "trifles." Mr. Hale refers to the serious concerns of the housewife as "trifles," meaning trivial, unimportant things.

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.

Others of them are critical that the house is not very clean...


COUNTY ATTORNEY (with the gallantry of a young politician). And yet, for all their worries, what would we do without the ladies? (...Starts to wipe [his hands] on the roller towel, turns it for a cleaner place.) Dirty towels!...Not much of a housekeeper, would you say, ladies?

MRS. HALE (stiffly). There's a great deal of work to be done on a farm.

and not nicely decorated...

COUNTY ATTORNEY. No--it's not cheerful. I shouldn't say she had the homemaking instinct.

MRS. HALE. Well, I don't know as Wright had, either.

The men also joke about the quilt Mrs. Wright is making, as if they would know anything about it. In fact, Mrs. Peters and Mrs. Hale become defensive and angry at the men for their lack of understanding and their overall insensitivity to the plight of the common housewife, which is what they are.

This is the third most important reason the men are present: they bring to light for Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters, and for the audience, how difficult it is for a woman to run a house and make it a home. It shows that men have a great deal to say about things they know nothing about, and appear to have little appreciation for the work that women do that benefits them the most.

By the end of the play, there is a new sense of solidarity between the women, and a desire to help Mrs. Wright in any way they can, not just by taking some of her things to the jail, but also by preventing the men from finding any more evidence that might convict her.