Student Question

Why did the men overlook the evidence in Trifles?

Quick answer:

The men miss the signs because they fail to consider that the killer was inside the house, they do not take women seriously, they have preconceived notions of the evidence, and they fail to put themselves in Mrs. Wright's place.

Expert Answers

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In Susan Glaspell's play Trifles, the men overlook the signs that are obvious because they are not looking for them. They concentrate on finding evidence of someone coming into the house but fail to consider that the murderer is someone inside the house. They believe that because Mrs. Wright is a woman, she will not be convicted; therefore, they attempt to find the real criminal in all the wrong places. The men concentrate on searching the upstairs of the house for clues since the killing took place in the bedroom. They are satisfied with Mrs. Wright’s explanation that she is a sound sleeper, so that’s why she did not hear her husband’s murder.

Failing to find any clues upstairs, the men next focus on the windows, trying to figure out how the killer entered the house. They do not find any evidence there either. Instead of next looking through the first floor, they discuss their confusion and they mock the women for being silly.

There is no consideration of finding evidence to convict Mrs. Wright because the men do not believe that women are intelligent or capable. They make fun of them for focusing on Mrs. Wright’s quilt, something they consider to be a female chore and out of their realm of importance. “Well, that’s interesting, I’m sure.” In fact, the quilt is interesting because it holds an important clue which the men will never find merely because of their closed-mindedness. They think as men instead of putting themselves in the wife’s place. They do not understand that the uneven stitches in one patch of cloth is a clear sign of distress, as the rest of the quilt is neatly stitched.

The men also fail to see the empty bird cage with the broken door which the women immediately understand points to an abusive and angry husband. Identifying with Mr. Wright, they have no knowledge that the husband had crushed his wife’s spirit and stopped her from singing and had later killed her bird. The County Attorney laments “If there was some definite thing.” Had he been able to sympathize with Mrs. Wright, he might have deduced from the bird cage what really happened and eventually would have found the bird as well. He might have recognized Mrs. Wright’s loneliness and understood that in the absence of children, the bird was like her child. He might have realized that Mrs. Wright snapped when Mr. Wright took away the one thing she loved.

This all might be circumstantial evidence, but it would be enough to hold Mrs. Wright and perhaps eventually obtain a confession from her. Yet, the men overlook the most obvious clues.

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