Susan Glaspell’s Trifles explores male-female relationships through the murder investigation of the character of Mr. Wright. The play takes place in Wright’s country farmhouse as the men of the play, the county attorney, the sheriff, and Mr. Hale, search for evidence as to the identity and, most importantly, the motive of the murderer. However, the men never find the clues that would lead them to solving this murder case.
Instead, it is their female counterparts who discover the evidence needed, and who are able to do so because of their gender.
The male investigators need to find, as Mrs. Peters puts it, “‘a motive; something to show anger, or–sudden feeling'” (1329). Yet the men never see the uneven sewing on a quilt Minnie Wright was working on before the murder. The quilt is a symbol of Minnie’s agitation–her anger. The men, though, laugh at the women’s wonderings about the quilt and its peculiar knot.
Likewise, the canary and its cage are easily dismissed. In fact, the men just as easily believe a lie about this bird and cage. When the cage is noticed, its hinge pulled apart and broken door unnoticed, the county attorney asks, “‘Has the bird flown?'” Mrs. Peters replies that the “‘cat got it'” (1332). There is actually no such cat, but the men do not know that and never question the existence of it. The bird, however, is vital to the case.
Mr. Wright killed the bird, Minnie’s bird, which may have provoked her to then kill him. As Mrs. Hale thinks further she says, No, Wright wouldnt like the bird a thing that sang, She used to sing. He killed that, too (1332). Mrs.
Hale is talking about Mrs. Wright before she was married, how she used to go out and could sing like an angel, but since her marriage she has been confined like a caged bird. In addition, the strangling of Mr. Wright, a form of murder, which perplexes all when a gun was handy, is reminiscent of the strangling of that bird. It is another answer to the men’s questions, but an answer they never find.
The women, on the other hand, take note of all they see.
They notice the bird, the cage, and the quilt but other things that the men call “trifles,” like Minnie’s frozen preserves and her request for her apron and shawl. These women are united; it seems, not only as country wives or as neighbors but also on the basic level of womanhood. This is apparent from the beginning of the play. Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters “stand close together near the door,” (1324) emotionally bonded throughout the play and, here, physically, in a way, too.
Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters also have a kinship to Minnie, just as to each other. They respect her work as a homemaker. Mrs. Hale quickly comes to Minnie’s defense when her housekeeping skills are questioned, saying, “‘There’s a great deal of work to be done on a farm'” (1326).
The women display their loyalty to each other and their sympathy for one another, too. Mrs. Peters can identify with the loneliness and sadness of losing something you love. She understands “‘what stillness is,'” and Mrs. Hale knows “‘how things can be–for women . .
. they all go through the same things–it’s just a different kind of the same thing'” (1333). These women are obviously united, and together they have a common enemy, as it were.
The womens foes, the men, are not united at all. The county attorney, in particular, is in a rush to find evidence. He hurries Mr.
Hale through his story with, “‘Lets talk about that later . . . tell now just what happened when you got to the house'” (1325). Then he ushers the other two men up the stairs, unthinkingly neglecting the crucial evidence
downstairs. To them it is of little importance as they say, Nothing here but kitchen things (1326).
Instead of looking at things of the wife, who is in custody, they search all through Johns bed, barn, and other male things for evidence. The women regard these men, between themselves, as “‘snooping around and criticizing'” (1327) and .