Discussion Topic

The ethics and motivations behind the women's decision to conceal evidence in Trifles

Summary:

In "Trifles," the women decide to conceal evidence out of empathy and solidarity with Mrs. Wright. They understand her emotional turmoil and the oppressive environment she endured, which motivates their ethical choice to protect her from further injustice, rather than adhering strictly to the law.

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Did the women in Trifles do the right thing by concealing evidence?

The short story version of this play is called "A Jury of her Peers."  This title implies that the women, her peers, have examined and weighed the evidence just as a courtroom jury would have.  It's true the men will never be able to present an effective case because of their own unwillingness to pay attention to the "trifles," and it's true the women could and perhaps even should have helped them do that.  However, these women know something about men and know that a jury of them would no doubt find their "sister" guilty of this crime--without regard to her motives or the provocation which she endured.  They took matters into their own hands, yes; however, they did weigh the evidence and make a judgment. This always reminds me of Heck Tate and Atticus in To Kill a Mockingbird when they decide to spare Boo Radley from the trial which must occur if they announce him as the killer of Bob Ewell.  Neither they nor the women should have taken the law into their own hands; however, I'm always glad they did.

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Did the women in Trifles do the right thing by concealing evidence?

What is key to the meaning of the play is the understanding of women and their ability (as opposed to the blundering of the men) to discern what precisely happened and find a motive out of "ordinary seeming" objects, such as the bread, the quilt and the cage. Their choice to conceal the evidence at the end of the play seems to be a choice to align themselves as fellow women with Mrs. Wright, recognising how she had suffered under the hand of Mr. Wright and also identifying their own role in not supporting her. Thus, arguably, you could say that they were correct.

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Did the women in Trifles do the right thing by concealing evidence?

Credibility involves someone being worthy of note or reliable based on their knowledge of a certain subject.  I am having a bit of trouble understanding how you will use sympathy and credibility to say that the women should not have concealed evidence...

Because one of the women was the sheriff's wife, some would argue she was obligated because of her husband's position to turn over the evidence that she and Mrs. Hale found; however, this is debatable.  Based on the roles of women, perhaps that would have been the right thing for her to do in this time period.  Perhaps during any time period this would appear the right thing to do; again, this is up for debate.  On the other side of this argument is the fact that Mr. Wright was clearly abusive to Mrs. Wright and he killed her dreams and individuality over the long course of their marriage.  He also killed her beloved bird, the only thing that made her happy at the time.  Again, though, some would ask if this justifies murder.  That is up for the reader to decide!  

Both women are highly regarded in the town and would be considered completely credible; however, the sheriff's wife feels more obligated to support her gender because of the way that Mrs. Wright was treated in her marriage; she is not immune to the obstacles facing women during this time period.  Also, had the women given the evidence to the men, Mrs. Wright most likely would have faced certain execution.

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Was the murder justified in Trifles? Why did the women hide the evidence?

Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters do not exactly conceal the evidence. They simply do not bring it to the attention of the men. They do this because they feel the killing of Mr. Wright was justified. There may be some underlying irritation at the patronizing attitude of the men which makes them reluctant to speak out. Essentially, however, they keep quiet because they believe justice has already been done.

Whether you agree will depend on your personal views. If Mrs. Wright killed her husband in self-defense, this is fairly easy to justify, since she has no alternative but to die herself. Even if evidence of killing in self-defense were brought to trial, it would not be considered murder. If one does not accept that Mrs. Wright had to kill her husband to protect her own life, the question arises of whether his cruelty provided her with moral justification. Was there anything else she could or ought to have done? Mrs. Hale seems to think that Mrs. Wright was completely isolated, but what might have happened if, for instance, she had approached her neighbors and explained the situation?

The focus of the play through the eyes of the two women tends to predispose audience members to regard Mrs. Wright sympathetically. This effect is intensified by the way in which Hale, Peters, and Henderson, though not cruel, treat the two women like children and fail to take them seriously. Given these circumstances, there is a presumption in favor of Mrs. Wright, but there are various perfectly tenable moral positions which would find her actions unjustified.

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Was the murder justified in Trifles? Why did the women hide the evidence?

In my opinion, the murder in Trifles was extremely justified. The women conceal the evidence of the murder, including Mrs. Wright's beloved bird whose neck was snapped by Mr. Wright, because it would be absurd for Mrs. Wright to be arrested for murder just because she wanted the torment her husband put her through to end. The play shows Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters allying with Mrs. Wright to help protect her from the men of the town who are intent of using the legal system that they control to defend Mr. Wright's cruel and indefensible life. The men in the play are violent, dismissive of their wives, and just downright mean. This is rarely considered a caricature; however, the play is considered to accurately describe the anger women in the early 20th century felt towards the men in their lives.

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Was the murder justified in Trifles? Why did the women hide the evidence?

Many people believe murder is never justified, but the reader of Trifles is meant to understand Mrs. Wright's motivation in murdering her husband. The women who unofficially look for evidence to understand the murder find Mrs. Wright's pet bird with its neck wrung. They compare her to a bird, as they say she was sweet but a bit "fluttery." When they find the dead bird, they immediately understand what might have happened. Perhaps Mr. Wright, a solemn and reserved man, killed his wife's bird, prompting her to kill him.

The killing of her bird operates on both literal and metaphorical levels. Mrs. Wright loved her pet, so her husband's destruction of her bird would have hurt her. In addition, she is much like the bird, as she was once lively but was silenced by her seemingly loveless and childless marriage. The women decide to hide the evidence of the dead bird to protect Mrs. Wright, as they seem to understand and sympathize with her plight.

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Was the murder justified in Trifles? Why did the women hide the evidence?

The murder was justified if Mrs. Wright killed her husband in self-defense.

It is always difficult to say what justifies one person killing another, but there is evidence that Mrs. Wright might have killed her husband in self-defense.  First of all, she seems to have been in shock when she was found.  Second, we know that he killed her bird.  That indicates that he was violent.  If the women covered up evidence because they believed that she killed him in self-defense, it makes their actions make much more sense.

She was rockin’ back and forth. She had her apron in her hand and was kind of—pleating it.

Mrs. Wright seems unaware of her surroundings and barely able to answer questions when she is found and questioned.  Her repetitive behavior and odd affect might show that she is still in shock from being attacked.

The women compare Mrs. Wright to a bird.  They find the bird with a snapped neck.  When discussing the dead bird, it seems obvious what happened to it.

MRS. PETERS (moving uneasily). We don’t know who killed the bird.

MRS. HALE. I knew John Wright.

Although it may not be as obvious that he was rough with her, the women talk about how she was isolated on the farm, and never left it any more.  She used to be active and social, and after she was married she was alone.  Her husband choked the life out of her, figuratively, just like he did with that bird.  It is not much of a stretch to assume he might have lost his temper and attacked her, and she defended herself. 

There is evidence of Mrs. Wright’s terror everywhere in the house, and evidence of Mr. Wright’s temper there too.  Clearly, it seems, the women think that he snapped and attacked her, and she snapped and killed him.  So, it was self-defense.  They decide to clean up the evidence that implicates her.

The men in this story do not understand what is really going on, because they do not understand what Mrs. Wright went through.  The women look at the evidence that the men do not see, and come to a conclusion that the men do not.  

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