Discussion Topic

The identity and cause of Mr. Wright's death in Trifles

Summary:

Mr. Wright's identity is that of the murdered husband in Susan Glaspell's play "Trifles." He was strangled to death with a rope, and his wife, Mrs. Wright, is implied to be the culprit, driven by years of emotional abuse and isolation.

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What is the cause of Mr. Wright's death in Trifles?

In Susan Glaspell's play Trifles, Mr. Wright was strangled to death with a rope in the middle of the night by his wife, Minnie Wright.

At the beginning of the play, George Henderson, Sheriff Henry Peters, and Lewis Hale arrive at the Wright household to investigate the murder of John Wright. According to Hale, he stopped by the Wright home the previous day to speak with John and was astonished when Mrs. Wright informed him that "[John] died of a rope round his neck."

Hale immediately called for Harry's help, and the two men discovered John's lifeless body in the bed with a rope around his neck. When Mr. Hale and Harry questioned Mrs. Wright, she claimed that she slept through the night and didn't have a clue who was responsible for her husband's death.

As the play progresses, Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters discover several significant clues that prove Mrs. Wright's motive to kill her domineering, abusive husband. After the women examine Mrs. Wright's erratic stitching and take note of her messy kitchen, they find a broken birdcage and discover Mrs. Wright's dead canary inside a box. The women immediately recognize that someone wrung the bird's neck, and Mrs. Peters sympathizes with Mrs. Wright when she recalls a time when a boy killed her beloved kitten in front of her.

Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters realize that Mrs. Wright strangled her husband to get revenge for years of domestic abuse and the death of her pet canary. The women confirm that Mrs. Wright strangled her husband with a rope while he was sleeping but refuse to disclose the incriminating evidence, sympathizing with her.

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Who is the killer of John Wright in Trifles?

The women piece together what happened by looking at the trifles in the kitchen that the male police officers disparage. They know that Minnie Wright killed her husband John Wright.

First, they realize from the messy and disorganized state of her kitchen that she must have been distraught. Then they find the damaged canary cage. It looks like someone wrenched off the door in a fit of rage. Not long after, they find the canary itself, carefully wrapped up with its neck broken. They realize that John must have killed the bird.

Mrs. Hale recalls what a bright, lively person Minnie once was, much like a canary. She also realizes that she should have visited Minnie more. The woman must have been lonely on the farm with no children and a harsh, uncommunicative husband. However, Mrs. Hale didn't like to visit because it was so depressing to do so.

Mrs. Peters remembers how upset she was as a child when a boy hacked her kitten to death with an axe. She understands the murderous rage that Minnie must have felt as she watched her innocent bird get killed.

The two women realized that Minnie must have snapped after years of abuse and killed her husband after he murdered her beloved bird. Because they sympathize with her and feel it was a justifiable homicide, they don't reveal what they know.

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Who is the killer of John Wright in Trifles?

In Susan Glaspell's one-act play, John Wright is discovered dead with a rope around his neck. His wife claims that he must have been strangled while she was asleep and that the murderer has escaped. The murderer is never caught and, legally, that is they end of the matter.

The county attorney, Mr. Hale, and the sheriff, Mr. Peters, search the Wright house and find no evidence. However, their wives come with them and discover a dead canary, which has evidently been strangled. They realize that Mr. Wright must have been abusing his wife and that she has strangled him just as he strangled the canary. However, they keep quiet out of sympathy for Mrs. Wright and allow her to get away with her husband's murder.

Although it will never be proved in court and she will escape punishment for the murder (viewed by the women in the play as justifiable homicide), Mrs. Wright clearly killed her husband. Fortunately for her, the only evidence lay in easily-overlooked trifles.

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Who is the killer of John Wright in Trifles?

In Trifles, it was Minnie Wright who killed John Wright. In the play, Mr. Hale describes how Minnie acted the day he discovered that John was dead.

According to Mr. Hale, Minnie seemed agitated when he questioned her about John. Mr. Hale related that, when he entered the Wright residence, Minnie was rocking back and forth on her chair. She had her apron in her lap and appeared to be pleating it. Minnie was in an odd mood; she was nervous and obviously troubled about something.

When Mr. Hale mentioned the cold weather, Minnie barely acknowledged him. She indulged in no pleasantries whatsoever and refused to look at Mr. Hale. When Mr. Hale asked to see John, Minnie gave a strange little laugh. Since she gave no real answer, Mr. Hale was forced to ask again. After much prodding on Mr. Hale's part, Minnie finally admitted that John was dead.

She pointed upstairs and revealed that John died "of a rope round his neck." Mr. Hale then went upstairs to investigate. After finding John dead, he went back downstairs to ask whether anyone had been notified of John's death. Mr. Hale relates that Minnie answered in the negative and appeared to be unconcerned. When Mr. Hale asked who was responsible for John's death, Minnie maintained that she didn't know. She mentioned that she was a sound sleeper.

Minnie's odd behavior, detached answers, and nervous laughter show that she was obviously in shock. It is plain from her emotional angst and the women's conversation about the dead canary that Minnie was responsible for John's death. 

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Who is the killer of John Wright in Trifles?

It is clear in this excellent play that the person who killed John Wright was actually Minnie Wright, his long suffering wife who had changed so much through her marriage to her husband and the cold, stern disposition that he had. Of course, the intense irony of the play is that the men are self-importantly wandering around trying to find a motive to incriminate Minnie Wright, but it is the women, who are mercilessly mocked and patronised for their focusing on "trifles" that actually find the missing clue that allows them to piece together a motive that indicates it was Minnie Wright that killed her husband.

They find a dead, strangled canary, that obviously belonged to Minnie Wright. Of course, John Wright himself was strangled, and note what Mrs Hale says to Mrs Wright regarding it:

If there'd been years and years of nothing, then a bird to sing to you, it would be awful--still after the bird was still.

This helps us to see that having experienced mental, psychological and physical overshadowing from her husband, and then having her canary strangled in front of her eyes, Minnie Wright would have lashed out in a fit of desperation, strangling her husband in his sleep. The women ironically solve the crime that the men are unable to do, but they choose to hide the missing bit of evidence from them in case that leads them to blame Minnie Wright.

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Who does Mrs. Wright suspect killed her husband in Trifles?

Mrs. Wright is in jail throughout the play, never on scene, and we are not privy to her thoughts. However, Mr. Hale repeats what happened when he found Mr. Wright's dead body. Mr. Hale questions Mrs. Wright about the death of her husband, wondering how she could have missed somebody sneaking into their bedroom at night and strangling her husband. She says she sleeps on the "inside" of the bed, closest to the wall, and sleeps soundly. She says that she has no idea who committed the crime.

It seems to the men that Mrs. Wright must have killed her husband, but she is not talking and they have no plausible motive for her to suddenly murder him.

The women, however, are able to piece together what happened. Mr. Wright, a harsh man, killed Mrs. Wright's canary in a fit of rage. This act of cruelty was the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back. Just as he killed the canary, John Wright had killed all that was lively and joyful in his wife. All the abuse Mrs. Wright had suffered at her husband's hands over the years welled up—and she snapped.

Because Mrs. Wright hasn't confessed, the women, Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters, are able to cover for her. The men take the women's lives with so little seriousness that they miss all the clues that would allow them to establish a motive. The women don't tell the men what they know, because they believe it was a justifiable homicide.

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Who is the killer in Trifles?

In Susan Glaspell's play Trifles, the sheriff and the county attorney do not find any clues that would lead them to discover or prosecute Mr. Wright's killer. At the end of the play, therefore, it seems likely that the murderer will never be found and brought to justice and that the killing will always remain a mystery in the eyes of officialdom.

While the men have been hunting for clues, however, the audience has been following Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters, who have actually been finding clues. The male characters laugh at their interest in "trifles" rather obtusely, since the whole point of a clue is that it is generally a trifling matter. If it were large and obvious, the criminal would have noticed and removed it. The superior forensic skills of the two women lead them to the conclusion that Mrs. Minnie Wright killed her husband.

The women decide not to share the clues with the sheriff or the county attorney. This is partly because the men have already scoffed at their preoccupation with trifles, but mainly because these same clues have shown them that John Wright was an abusive husband. It appears, therefore, by the end of the drama, that Minnie Wright is the murderer and that her crime will go unpunished by the law.

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