Critical Analysis of “Trifles”
Erika Harris Critical Analysis of Trifles Susan Glaspell wrote Trifles in 1916 when society was based on patriarchal views. The story is of a murder being investigated. The county attorney and sheriff look for clues while the wives clean and gather items for the accused wife. As the story unfolds, the audience becomes aware of differences between the men and women, the attitude of the men towards the women, and motives for the murder.
The play begins with the county attorney getting information from Mr. Hale. The men then start looking for physical evidence of the murder and for the motive.
Meanwhile, the women gather items for Mrs. Wright and clean up her house. While they clean up they are able to piece together why Mrs.
Wright killed her husband. They take time and relive Mrs. Wright’s situation instead of overlooking details. The men ignore “women’s world” and do not connect psychologically, therefore overlooking the truth. “You’re convinced that there was nothing important here-nothing that would point to any motive.
” “Nothing here but kitchen things. ” The men refer to the women as having trifles: defined as something of little importance.
This situation shows differences of perspective and knowledge between the men and women. They both have a different perspective of the situation and use different knowledge to piece together the murder. During the early 1900s women’s rights activists are in full throttle. Many women are working in factories and earning wages for their household, and working towards equality to men.
Trifles greatly represents the attitudes of men during this period. When the play starts off, Mr. Hale is surprised when Mrs. Wright does not offer him to warm by the stove or sit down.
Men expected hospitality from women and thought that no matter what was going on a woman would take care of him. Mrs.
Peters mentions that Mrs. Wright’s fruit froze and how she had been worried about that happening. Then the sheriff replies, “Well, can you beat the woman! Held for murder and worrying about her preserves”. The men do not take in consideration the time and effort it took Mrs. Wright to grow, pick, and put up the fruit.
Mr. Hale also comments “Well, women are used to worrying over trifles”. The county attorney comments about the dirty towels and says that Mrs.
Wright didn’t have the “homemaking instinct”. Mrs. Hale takes up for her and tries to explain that farmers’ wives are busy and have much to do.
Men did not care about everything women had to do, they just expected a clean house. There are many items discovered throughout the play that lead the women to figuring out the motive of Mrs. Wright killing her husband. Many of the items are symbols and portray the life of Mrs. Wright. When the women find the quilt Mrs.
Wright was working on they talk about wether she was going to quilt it or knot it.
They look at it more and notice she got messy with the sewing. Mrs. Hale quickly takes it out and redoes it nicely. The quilt being done messily shows that she was stressed.
While looking through the cabinets Mrs. Peters finds a birdcage. They realize that the door hinges are damaged. The birdcage represents entrapment and the broken door represents the freedom from entrapment. They continue to talk about how the household was not cheerful and how Mrs. Wright was not happy.
She wanted a bird to keep her company and remind her of singing she used to do. Mr.
Wright made her stop singing and the bird was her last hope of it. They then find the dead bird in a box and notice that its neck had been broken. Mr.
Wright had been strangled with a rope around the neck and that is when they piece together Mrs. Wright did it and why she did. Mr. Wright broke the bird’s neck and that gave Mrs. Wright the thought to do the same to him. He had taken away her last memory of singing and she got fed up with not being happy and living for him.
Domesticity has two definitions; the first is the ability to keep a home in the purely physical sense (Mrs.
Wright’s part), and the second depends upon one’s ability to make a home warm and comforting emotionally (Mr. Wright’s part). Mr. Wright did not do what he should have so Mrs.
Wright eventually stopped doing her part. Continuously throughout the play the women take up and cover for Mrs. Wright. “Has the bird flown? ” “We think the-cat got it. ” There was no cat in the house but they made an excuse.
The women understand Mrs. Wright’s situation and motive and decide to keep the truth to themselves. This also gives way to how we choose to pursue, interpret, and explain the truth.
The men and women decide to do this differently. Trifles conveys differences, attitudes, and uncovers truth about a murder. Men and women viewed things differently and the play is a good representation of how this occurs and why it does.
Society in the 1900s was mainly a man’s society and women were ignored and undermined. Susan Glaspell does a wonderful job of explaining the point of view of women and setting an example of how women were not just houseworkers and could actually be useful in many instances.