Susan Glaspell's one-act play Trifles examines how men and women communicate with each other. Men are often oblivious to what women are trying to communicate because they consider themselves superior to women. For example, the men in this play constantly denigrate the women for their focus on Minnie Wright's domestic life, but this focus leads Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters to an understanding of what has happened. At the same time, the men focus on matters that provide them with no understanding of why John Wright is murdered.
The motive for the crime lies in Minnie Wright's sad and isolated life. This isolation is imposed by her hard and silent husband. When he kills her canary, he is figuratively killing her contact with her past self—a woman full of life and song.
She used to wear pretty clothes and be lively, when she was Minnie Foster, one of the town girls singing in the choir. But that, oh, was thirty years ago.
This foreshadows the change that Minnie Wright undergoes as the wife of a man who refuses to get a party-line telephone because, according to Mr. Hale, Wright says "folks talked too much anyway, and all he asked was peace and quiet." As the evidence discloses, Mrs. Wright eventually rebels against this "peace and quiet."
After finding the broken bird cage and dead canary, with its neck broken and carefully wrapped in silk, both women are disturbed by their growing suspicion that Minnie Wright's actions might have something to do with the dead canary, but they need to examine their own history to understand Minnie Wright's actions. Mrs. Peters recalls an episode from her childhood:
When I was a girl—my kitten—there was a boy took a hatchet, and before my eyes. ... If they hadn't held me back I would have—(catches herself, looks upstairs where step are heard, falters weakly)—hurt him.
The emotional power of this scene—a memory that still is visceral to Mrs. Peters—triggers in Mrs. Hale an understanding of Minnie Wright's desperate loneliness:
I wonder how it would seem never to have had any children around. No, Wright wouldn't like the bird—a thing that sang. She used to sing. He killed that, too.
The realization of John Wright's brutality—first killing the life in his wife and second killing the symbol of that life, the canary—creates in the women an unspoken agreement that Minnie Wright, if she is to be charged with murder, will not be charged with their help.
Mrs. Hale, having known Minnie Wright since she was a girl, keenly feels that she failed in her duty to a lonely neighbor and puts the "crime" in a perspective that neither of the women could ignore:
I wish you would have seen Minnie Foster when she wore a white dress, with blue ribbons, and stood up there in the choir and sang. ... Oh, I wish I'd come over here once in a while! That was a crime! That was a crime! Who's going to punish that?
When the women entered the Wright's house, it was to gather some things to take to Minnie Wright in jail. Through their discovery and analysis of the evidence and, more important, their memories of loss and loneliness, they have become what we would call co-conspirators in a murder of revenge.