Write a feminist critical analysis in the form of an argument about any of the women in the play "Trifles" by Susan Glaspell.

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booboosmoosh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Susan Glaspell's play, "Trifles," the men in the story—representing the male-dominated society—believe that Minnie Wright murdered her husband while he slept. After her arrest, they look for proof of her crime. Through impressions shared by Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters, the audience learns what has transpired in Minnie's life that would not only drive her to murder, but would elicit support for her from her neighbors, rather than for the men—society.

The men act out behaviors that would earn compassion for Minnie's alleged murder of her husband. The men find it easy to criticize Minnie.

HALE. Well, women are used to worrying over trifles. 
(The two women move a little closer together.)

Note that when Hale refers to the hard work women do at home (like spending hours in summer heat putting up fruit) as "trifles" (things of little importance), the "women move a little closer together" as a sign of solidarity. This shows their resentment of Hale's comment, and supports an inference that Minnie resented her husband's similar attitude.

The lawyer in attendance tries to smooth ruffled feathers by patronizing the women, but as a representative of a society that does not value its women, his words offer criticism:

COUNTY ATTORNEY ...And yet, for all their worries, what would we do without the ladies? (...He goes to the sink...washes his hands...) Dirty towels!...Not much of a housekeeper, would you say, ladies?

The lines have been drawn. The audience is given an example as to how a woman like Minnie would not have been valued by her husband based on housekeeping skills. Again the lawyer is critical, but this time, instead of being politic, Mrs. Hale defends Minnie, perhaps paralleling Minnie's change of attitude with her husband under his constant criticisms.

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...I don't think a place'd be any cheerfuller for John Wright's being in it.

Mrs. Hale tells Mrs. Peters that Mr. Wright was "close" (stingy with money) and that Minnie was unable to participate in local events because she was always dressed so shabbily, but it wasn't always that way:

She used to wear pretty clothes and be lively, when she was Minnie Foster...

We can now infer that an unappreciative and miserly husband was enough to destroy Minnie's spirit; just thinking of these things saddens the women. The women discover a broken cage and wonder about the bird. Mrs. Hale likens Minnie to a small bird:

She--come to think of it, she was kind of like a bird herself--real sweet and pretty, but kind of timid and--fluttery.

This takes on new meaning when they find the bird with the broken neck in Minnie's sewing basket—they realize that Wright was also a violent man. He killed Minnie's bird, the one joy in her life. One might also infer that he might have been physically abusive with her—her action may have been in self-defense.

MRS. HALE ...But, Mrs. Peters--look at it. Its neck! Look at its neck! It's all--other side to.

MRS. PETERS. Somebody--wrung--its neck. 
(Their eyes meet. A look of growing comprehension of horror...)

Sadly, the women also note, the house is lonely, and would have been more so because Minnie had no children. The bird may have been like a child.

These examples show how Minnie was driven to her wits' end, and her neighbors can sympathize for the way she was oppressed and perhaps physically abused by her husband.