The main characters in Trifles are Minnie Wright, George Henderson, Sheriff Henry Peters, Lewis Hale, Mrs. Hale, and Mrs. Peters.
- Minnie Wright is a woman accused of killing her husband, John Wright. The women investigating her home uncover evidence that suggests Minnie was abused.
- George Henderson is the county attorney who will prosecute Minnie for murder.
- Sheriff Henry Peters is leading the investigation into John's murder.
- Lewis Hale is the neighbor who discovered John Wright's death.
- Mrs. Hale is Lewis Hale's wife. She empathizes with Minnie and conceals the evidence of Minnie's crime.
- Mrs. Peters is the sheriff's wife, who helps Mrs. Hale hide the evidence.
Last Updated on June 10, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 576
Lewis Hale is a farmer and neighbor of the Wright family. A straightforward, honest man, Hale is a bit rough around the edges from the harsh life of a rural farmer.
Hale was the first to discover John’s murder when he stopped by the Wright’s farmhouse to interest them in sharing a telephone line. He is slow to judgment and hesitant to suggest that Minnie may have been involved somehow.
Mrs. Hale is the wife of Lewis. At first timid, she eventually commits what she thinks is a justifi- able crime: a conspiracy to conceal evidence from a murder investigation.
Mrs. Hale accompanies her husband to the crime scene to gather items for the imprisoned Minnie. As the men search the house for clues, however, Mrs. Hale gets frustrated with their patronizing attitude; she understands and empathizes with Minnie’s isolation and alienation. In their youth, she was friends with Minnie, who was then a vivacious and interesting girl. She knew Minnie was isolated and probably lonely after her marriage; moreover, she noticed her change into a drab, quiet woman as the years passed.
Of the two women in the play, Mrs. Hale seems to be the more observant and more prone to action. It is she who notices most of the clues first—the bread left outside the box, the hasty quilt stitching, and the dead canary in Mrs. Wright’s sewing kit. She is the one who suggests that John was an unhappy, abusive man who may have deserved his fate.
Ultimately, it is Mrs. Hale who hides the dead canary—evidence suggesting a motive for the crime—in her coat pocket to prevent the men from finding it.
George Henderson is the attorney that will eventually prosecute Minnie. He is younger than the other characters; accordingly, he is more brash, sarcastic, and foolish. When questioning Hale about John’s murder he misses important details.
Unlike Hale and Peters, Henderson is quick to make judgments. At the end of the play, he mocks Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters for their interest in whether Minnie was going to quilt or knot her sewing project, not realizing the answer was actually one of the clues he was seeking.
As sheriff in the small, rural town, Henry Peters plays a surprisingly small part in the investigation of John’s murder. He visited the farmhouse the day before, found John’s body, arrested Minnie, and secured the premises.
The morning of the investigation, Peters sent one of his men out to build a fire and warm the house. Now, he has turned the investigation over to Henderson, and says very little himself.
In some ways, Mrs. Peters is an outsider in this bleak, rural community. Unlike Mrs. Hale, she did not know Minnie as a young woman, and therefore doesn’t see the toll living with John had taken on her.
However, she does understand the loneliness and rage Minnie felt. As a child, she watched angrily and helplessly as a boy viciously killed her kitten with a hatchet. Later in life, while she and her husband were living in the Dakota countryside, her two-year-old baby died.
Mrs. Peters begins the play as the cautionary voice of reason, warning Mrs. Hale, ‘‘I don’t think we ought to touch things.’’ By the end, however, she empathizes with Minnie’s actions and helps Mrs. Hale conceal evidence.
Unlock This Study Guide Now
Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.
- 30,000+ book summaries
- 20% study tools discount
- Ad-free content
- PDF downloads
- 300,000+ answers
- 5-star customer support