The thesis of this paper is to prove that the title of Susan Glaspell’s play “Trifles” represents how men considered women’s duties and their opinions to be of little importance compared to a man’s role in society. The dictionary defines the word trifle as something of little importance or value, or to deal with something as if it were of little significance or value (The American Heritage Dictionary).
The play opens in Minnie Wright’s kitchen.
Minnie’s husband has been murdered, he was found strangled with a rope around his neck. The County Attorney, the Sheriff, his wife and a few neighbors are there. The Sheriff, the attorney and the men set up the task of investigating the murder. The women, however, are concerned with the appearance of the house, especially the kitchen.
The word trifle is used once in the play to indicate how the men think of what the women. are doing in the kitchen while the men are trying to solve the murder. The women were in the kitchen discussing the fact that Minnie was concerned about her fruit preserves. The County Attorney makes the statement:
“I guess before we’re through she may have something
more serious than preserves to worry about.
Mr. Hale responds with:
“Well, women are used to worrying over trifles.”
Because the women were concerned with cleaning and tidying the kitchen, which men considered trifle, the men overlooked that area and went out to find some real clues. However, the real clue to solving the murder was found in the kitchen.
Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters find a birdcage in the kitchen cupboard. They discuss the fact that Minnie must have had a bird at one time, but do not connect it with the murder at first.
This is an example of how the men considered what the women were doing of no importance.
Mrs. Wright had requested a few things from the house, her apron, shawl and some clothes. While the women were gathering these things, they came across her quilting and were discussing whether or not they thought Mrs.
Wright was going to keep on quilting or knot the quilt and finish it. The men came downstairs and laughed at the women. The Sheriff said,
“They wonder if she was going to quilt it or just knot it!”
Mrs. Hale said,
“I don’t know as there’s anything so strange, our takin’ up
our time with little things while we’re waiting for them to
get the evidence.
I don’t see as it’s anything to laugh about.”
This is another example of how what the women were doing was considered trifle, of no importance to the investigation. However, as the women were looking for patches to fix the quilt, they came across a dead canary wrapped in a piece of silk. The canary’s neck had been broken.
The County Attorney came in and saw the birdcage and asked
“Has the bird flown?”
The women told him that they thought the cat had gotten it. The women were starting to put the facts together. The women connected the fact that Mr. Wright had killed the canary by breaking his neck, and in turn Mrs.
Wright killed her husband by strangling him with a rope. The men completely missed the point because what the women were doing had no significance to the investigation. They were more interested if anyone came in through the windows. The County Attorney said to the Sheriff,
“No sign at all of anyone having come from the
Their own rope. Now Let’s go up again
and go over it piece by piece.”
The word trifle had more than one meaning in this play. The women’s duties were considered trifle, to be insignificant.
As a result the men never found the clues necessary to solve the case. In addition, Mrs. Wright’s life was also considered to be trifle, she had no children, and did not participate in any community activities. The title of the play adds to our understanding of the play’s characters and theme by showing that the birdcage also represented something trifle to the investigation.
The men did not consider this a clue, but the women realized that Mrs. Wright was caged in her marriage to Mr. Wright, just as the bird had been caged. When Mr.
Wright strangled the canary, Mrs. Wright had to make a choice of either staying caged in her marriage, or end her marriage by killing her husband. While the men did not consider the birdcage important, they also missed the fact that the birdcage represented Mrs. Wright’s life