Why is Trifles so effective in spite of just having one act?Why is Trifles so effective in spite of just having one act?

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accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I have had to edit your question slightly so I hope it still makes sense. I am rather curious about it however - why would only having one act make a play less likely to be successful or effective? Surely if we think about the five act plays of Shakespeare and his contemporaries we see that he has more time to plot his plays very carefully, but surely if you are careful to make sure your plot contains the same elements of suspense and excitement you can still write a successful play, albeit in only one act.

For me, one of the central elements that makes Trifles such a successful play is the way that we are witnessing a detective inquiry, but with an incredibly ironic twist - for the real "detectives" are not the men whose job it is to research the murder, but the women, who are completely overlooked and pretty much insulted by the men as they do their "real" work and the women engage in "trifles." The irony is, however, that it is precisely the women's knowledge of "trifles" that enables them to discover the motive for the murder and also encourages them to protect Minnie Wright from committing a crime which their silence shows is partly justified at least. It is a tense, gripping drama, that has a great impact on its audience. As Shakespeare himself wrote, "brevity is the soul of wit."

mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator


This one-act play succeeds for the same reasons as one of Poe's short stories succeeds:  There is a singleness of purpose.  While other dramas may develop more than one theme or character examinations, there is in Trifles a singularity. For, in Trifles "the collective whole of the becomes greater than the sum of its parts." In Judith Kay Russell's essay, ‘‘Glaspell’s Trifles, she contends that Glaspell retells the story of the Three Sisters who controlled fate:

In Trifles, Mrs. Hale weaves the story or describes the circumstances, Mrs. Peters weighs the evidence and determines the direction of justice, and Mrs. Wright carries out the verdict.

The singleness of the women's roles in controlling fate in this drama makes it successful.

Lori Steinbach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In general terms, if a play (or a short story or a novel) has the traditional elements of the genre, it will be successful no matter what the length of the work. "Trifles" (as well as the short story version entitled "A Jury of Her Peers") works because it has recognizable characters, a clear beginning/middle/end, and a point of view. We never meet the husband but we feel as if we know him through effective dialogue, and we have all met the single-minded person who ignores the obvious in pursuit of an agenda. There is an element of mystery as well as several moments of drama as the women realize the truth and the Sheriff's wife undergoes a crisis of ethics. It is a successful play because there is a story worth telling and it is told well.


miss-spoon | Student

Thank you. But I need to understand the elements by which the modern drama, in general, succeeds although it is short. By recognizing this, I can realize the reasons that make " Trifles " a successful play in spite of just having one act.

This is specifically what I want.