Trifles Summary

Trifles is a one-act play by Susan Glaspell in which several neighbors enter the Wrights' farmhouse to investigate the murder of John Wright. John's wife, Minnie, is suspected of the murder.

  • Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters accompany their husbands to the Wright house. The men look for evidence to use against Minnie, while the women gather Minnie's personal affects.
  • Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters look around the kitchen. They find a broken bird cage and the corpse of Minnie's beloved canary with its neck broken.

  • Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters sympathize with Minnie, realizing that her husband was abusive. They decide to hide the evidence.

Summary

Sheriff Henry Peters and county attorney George Henderson visit the Wright home to investigate the murder of John Wright. His wife, Minnie Wright, has been arrested for the murder, and the two men have come to collect evidence against her. To that end, they have brought Lewis Hale, Minnie Wright's neighbor, who was the first person other than Minnie to see John's dead body. Hale will be a witness for the prosecution at the trial. With the three men are Mrs. Peters, the sheriff's wife, and Mrs. Hale, Lewis's wife, who have come to collect some of Minnie's personal effects to bring to her in prison. The sheriff is the first to enter the Wrights' little farmhouse. He and the other two men gather around the hot stove for warmth while the women linger in the doorway. It is clear that the two women are more upset about the murder than their husbands and that they have reservations about entering the house.

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Inside, the men begin their investigation. Henderson questions Hale about the events of the previous day. Hale recounts how he was going to town with a sack of potatoes when he stopped at the Wright farm, wondering if the Wrights would like to share a telephone line. He found Minnie in her rocking chair behaving strangely. She told him that John was upstairs, dead, with a rope around his neck. At the time, Minnie claimed that John was strangled in his sleep by an unknown assailant and said she did not hear the strangling, because she "sleeps sound." Minnie was arrested and is now awaiting trial for the murder of her husband. She has been in jail for a full day at this point and needs a fresh change of clothes, which is why Mrs. Peters and Mrs. Hale have come—out of kindness.

Henderson suggests that the men have a look around, thinking they might find some clues. The men decide not to search the room where Lewis Hale found Minnie, because, according to Sheriff Peters, there is "nothing here but kitchen things." These words demonstrate the sheriff's disdain for women's work, introducing the theme of sexism that recurs throughout the play. Sheriff Peters decides they are going to focus on the bedroom and the barn, where, they assume, the real clues will be found. When Henderson searches a cupboard, he finds several broken jars of preserves. He dismisses these jars as "trifles," even though Minnie specifically mentioned the preserves, fearing that the jars would break in the freeze. While the men are upstairs, the women conduct the real investigation. As soon as they are alone, they begin gathering things to bring to Minnie in prison: a change of clothes, a shawl, a pleated apron. This leads them to some important discoveries.

First, the women note how dull and shabby Minnie's clothes are. Mrs. Hale says, ‘‘She used...

(The entire section is 782 words.)