Discussion Topic

The significance of women's relationships and their unique understanding in Trifles


In "Trifles," women's relationships and unique understanding are significant because they enable the female characters to uncover crucial evidence that the men overlook. Their shared experiences and perspectives allow them to empathize with the accused, Mrs. Wright, and piece together the motive for the crime, highlighting the importance of women's perspectives and solidarity.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What is the significance of women's relationships in Trifles?

Trifles is an excellent example of an act of uniformity by individuals who feel oppressed in some way.  In this case, the women were treated as insignificant in both word and action.  The reader's first clue is that Minnie Wright has been accused of murdering her husband.  As the county sheriff, the county prosecutor, and a neighboring farmer d descend upon the scene looking for clues, their wives accompany them to gather some minor items, or trifles, to take to Mrs. Wright in jail.  

The women are prepareed to accept Minnie's guilt at face value until a set of circumstances binds them together and changes their minds.  First of all, the men joke about the mess in the kitchen and the fact that Mrs. Wright would be worried about her bottled jam. Mrs. Hale is first to challenge the always-right mentality of the men by noting,

Those towels get dirty awful quick. Men's hands aren't always as clean as they might be.  

The county prosecuter responds,

Ah, loyal to your sex, I see.

This short exchange is quite ironic.  What the prosecuter sees as a small matter becomes an issue of monumental proportion by the end of the play.  This loyalty binds the women and more than likely prevents the conviction of Minnie.

Next, the men joke about Minnie's particular knitting style.  Again, they demean women's focus on trifling matters such as whether to knot or quilt a thread.  However, it is the women that notice the irregularities in Minnie's knitting, the damaged and empty birdcage, and later, the corpse of the bird.  Telling the men would be the right thing to do, but they don't.  Instead, they band together with the lonely Minnie, sympathizing with her situation and determined to keep the secret that will save her life.  

Women did not have much power at this time period.  This seemingly small incident proves that women were willing to join forces against the men who considered them insignificant.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

How does the play Trifles demonstrate that trifles are significant and women have unique understanding?

The women, Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters, who accompany their husbands to the murder scene are able to perceive the importance of items that the men, who are there in an official capacity, brush off as mere trifles. For this reason, the women solve the murder mystery.

The women understand that the devil is in the details and that the details of domestic life reveal a woman's state of mind. While the men, for instance, simply write off the mess in the kitchen as Mrs. Wright's poor housekeeping, the women are able to see it as a sign of the duress Mrs. Wright was under. They know how much work it takes to can, for instance, so they realize that it would take an extreme situation to make Mrs. Wright let the kitchen get cold enough for her canned fruit to explode.

The most important trifle the women hone in on is the carefully wrapped canary. It was Mrs. Wright's pet, and its neck was wrung. The women figure out that Mr. Wright killed the canary and that this is what caused Mrs. Wright to snap and kill her husband. They are able to understand this because they know what it is to be lonely, and, in Mrs. Peter's case, she knows the feeling of helplessly watching a beloved pet killed by a violent male. They see life through the same lenses as Minnie, and this enables them to empathize with her and reconstruct what happened.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Last Updated on