Student Question

What are some examples of asides and soliloquies in Trifles by Susan Glaspell?

Quick answer:

The women in the play use soliloquies and asides to explain their point of view on Minnie Wright’s guilt. These monologues are aimed at the women and audience, not the men on stage.

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Susan Glaspell’s play Trifles is a one-act play that follows Sheriff Henry Peters, local attorney George Henderson, and Lewis Hale as they investigate the murder of John Wright. Throughout this short play, the three men and their wives go through the Wright house to determine who killed Mr. Wright. The men are convinced that John’s wife, Minnie, committed the murder but so far have no proof. The women pay attention to the small details the men overlook and are able to determine she is guilty, but they also realize she only killed him after years of abuse. Because the story is told through a play’s structure, the reader follows the investigation entirely through the characters’ dialogue.

As they investigate, Mrs. Peters and Mrs. Hale have several soliloquies where they are talking through the evidence, seemingly to themselves and to each other at the same time. When they discover Minnie’s dead pet bird, Mrs. Peters tells about her first experience with a dead animal. She understands how much her kitten meant to her, and her monologue explains how she felt when it was killed. Assuming Mr. Wright killed her beloved bird, Mrs. Peters is already demonstrating sympathy for Minnie:

MRS. PETERS (in a whisper) When I was a girl-my kitten-there was a boy took a hatchet, and before my eyes—and before I could get there—(Covers her face an instant). lf they hadn't held me back I would have—(catches herself, looks upstairs where steps are heard, falters weakly)—hurt him.

The audience realizes that these soliloquies are not intended for the men on stage to hear—just the women and the audience. Mrs. Peters knows that if her husband hears her, it will be the proof he needs to convict Minnie. This becomes the play’s internal conflict for the women. Do they tell what they’ve found, or do they protect one of their own? Later, Mrs. Hale has a similar moment when discussing their conflict. In a moment of self-discovery, she realizes how similar the women’s lives are and looks for a way to protect Minnie:

MRS. HALE 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. (Brushes her eyes, noticing the jar of fruit, reaches out for it) If l was you, I wouldn't tell her fruit was gone. Tell her it ain't, Tell her it's all right. Take this in to prove it to her. She—she may never know whether it was broke or not.

The characters also use asides, short sentences for the audience to hear, as they continue their investigations. When the women determine if they men would understand the impact of the dead canary, Mrs. Hale comments to herself “Maybe they would—maybe they wouldn’t.”

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