Student Question

In Trifles by Susan Glaspell, what is each woman's inner conflict?

Quick answer:

Minnie Wright is the murderess. Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters help Minnie by hiding evidence and protecting Minnie from the law. The women felt that Minnie's husband was abusive towards her and other people (the bird), so they thought she should be allowed to kill him.

Expert Answers

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There are three women in Glaspell's Trifles.

Minnie Wright--while the audience never sees or hears Minnie speak through the whole play, she is a central character as the murderess.  Through Mrs. Peters and Mrs. Hale's discoveries and dialogue about Minnie, the audience envisions Minnie's inner conflict. A once lovely, joyful woman who enjoyed singing, Minnie became a timid, isolated housewife under her husband's coldness. Her inner conflict is her decision finally to stand up for the part of herself that she feels her husband has suffocated.  She obviously does not kill her husband in haste because she takes the time to murder him in a similar manner to how her husband killed her bird.

Mrs. Hale--a neighbor of Minnie Wright, Mrs. Hale possesses a take charge personality.  She does not like the way that the county attorney treats her and his obvious condescension toward all females. She finds most of the evidence and pieces together the motive of the crime. Her inner conflict is over doing what is considered right and legal--turning over her discoveries to the attorney and sheriff--and doing what she wants to do out sympathy and a sense of sisterhood for Minnie Wright.  In the end, she decides that Minnie was justified in killing her husband and settles her inner conflict by hiding the evidence from the men.

Mrs. Peters--of the three women, Mrs. Peters plays the most minor role even though she literally speaks more than Minnie Wright.  She is the quiet wife of the sheriff and at first does not seem to want to go along with Mrs. Hale's more outspoken sympathy for Minnie Wright. Even though she plays a more minor role than the other women, Mrs. Peters' conflict is probably the most inward of all of the characters.  As she and Mrs. Hale discover more evidence that makes Minnie's situation clear to them, Mrs. Peters begin to relate events from earlier in her life when the innocent and weak were abused.  Because of these memories and perhaps even some personal abuses that she does not reveal, Mrs. Peters struggles between protecting another defenseless victim (Minnie) and her duty to her husband as the town's sheriff.  Just like the other women, her end to inner conflict occurs when she decides to side with the "dominated" characters in the play.

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