Discussion Topic

Mrs. Hale's guilt for not helping Mrs. Wright in Trifles

Summary:

Mrs. Hale feels guilt for not helping Mrs. Wright because she believes she could have alleviated Mrs. Wright's isolation and possibly prevented the tragedy. She regrets not visiting Mrs. Wright more often, recognizing that her support might have made a significant difference in Mrs. Wright's troubled life.

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Why does Mrs. Hale feel guilty in Trifles?

Toward the end of Susan Glaspell's play Trifles, Mrs. Peters remarks to Mrs. Hale that the law has to punish crime. At this point, the two women have assembled enough evidence to make it clear that Minnie Wright murdered her abusive husband. Mrs. Hale, however, is not inclined to condemn Mrs. Wright, who is an old friend of hers. She remembers the warmth and gaiety Minnie Foster possessed before marrying John Wright, before she became withdrawn and unhappy. Mrs. Hale then reproaches herself:

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?

Mrs. Hale feels guilty for deserting her old friend after her marriage. Minnie Wright was miserable and isolated, and she was being abused by a sadistic and tyrannical husband. She needed all the friends she could get, and Mrs. Hale, who lived nearby, never came to see her.

If Mrs. Hale had been a better friend to Mrs. Wright, perhaps they might have found a way out of her marriage without resorting to murder. This seems to be Mrs. Hale's reasoning in withholding the evidence of her friend's guilt, allowing her to escape punishment. Mrs. Hale also feels sympathy with Minnie's plight, as does Mrs. Peters.

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Why does Mrs. Hale feel guilty for not helping Mrs. Wright in Trifles?

The following quote from Mrs. Hale describes her feelings:

I might have known she needed help! I know how things can be—for women. I tell you, it's queer. Mrs. Peters. We live close together and we live far apart. We all go through the same things—it's all just a different kind of the same thing.

Mrs. Hale strongly suspects that Mrs. Minnie Wright, born Minnie Foster, killed her husband, John Wright. However, she understands because she "knew John Wright" and knew that he "wouldn't like the bird" that Mrs. Wright owned, "a thing that sang." Mrs. Wright also used to sing herself, and "[h]e killed that, too."

Mrs. Hale's description of the women's lives as "queer" illustrates the way in which domesticity isolated women. They all did the same things—cooking and cleaning—but quietly kept their feelings about their lives to themselves.

Mrs. Hale feels guilty for not recognizing the change in Mrs. Wright from the time when she was Minnie Foster and sang in the choir wearing "a white dress with blue ribbons." She had loved singing and loved the bird that sang. The things that she loved were taken away from her. If Mrs. Hale, who understood her condition, had known this, she might have done something before Mrs. Wright committed her desperate act.

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