Who killed John Wright in Trifles?
In Trifles, it was Minnie Wright who killed John Wright. In the play, Mr. Hale describes how Minnie acted the day he discovered that John was dead.
According to Mr. Hale, Minnie seemed agitated when he questioned her about John. Mr. Hale related that, when he entered the Wright residence, Minnie was rocking back and forth on her chair. She had her apron in her lap and appeared to be pleating it. Minnie was in an odd mood; she was nervous and obviously troubled about something.
When Mr. Hale mentioned the cold weather, Minnie barely acknowledged him. She indulged in no pleasantries whatsoever and refused to look at Mr. Hale. When Mr. Hale asked to see John, Minnie gave a strange little laugh. Since she gave no real answer, Mr. Hale was forced to ask again. After much prodding on Mr. Hale's part, Minnie finally admitted that John was dead.
She pointed upstairs and revealed that John died "of a rope round his neck." Mr. Hale then went upstairs to investigate. After finding John dead, he went back downstairs to ask whether anyone had been notified of John's death. Mr. Hale relates that Minnie answered in the negative and appeared to be unconcerned. When Mr. Hale asked who was responsible for John's death, Minnie maintained that she didn't know. She mentioned that she was a sound sleeper.
Minnie's odd behavior, detached answers, and nervous laughter show that she was obviously in shock. It is plain from her emotional angst and the women's conversation about the dead canary that Minnie was responsible for John's death.
It is clear in this excellent play that the person who killed John Wright was actually Minnie Wright, his long suffering wife who had changed so much through her marriage to her husband and the cold, stern disposition that he had. Of course, the intense irony of the play is that the men are self-importantly wandering around trying to find a motive to incriminate Minnie Wright, but it is the women, who are mercilessly mocked and patronised for their focusing on "trifles" that actually find the missing clue that allows them to piece together a motive that indicates it was Minnie Wright that killed her husband.
They find a dead, strangled canary, that obviously belonged to Minnie Wright. Of course, John Wright himself was strangled, and note what Mrs Hale says to Mrs Wright regarding it:
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.
This helps us to see that having experienced mental, psychological and physical overshadowing from her husband, and then having her canary strangled in front of her eyes, Minnie Wright would have lashed out in a fit of desperation, strangling her husband in his sleep. The women ironically solve the crime that the men are unable to do, but they choose to hide the missing bit of evidence from them in case that leads them to blame Minnie Wright.