Susan GlaspellBorn in Iowa in 1876. Her fathers sold hay and animal feed for aliving, and she developed an appreciation of Midwest culture. Sheentered journalism in hopes of eventually becoming a writer.Inspiration for Triﬂes came while covering the murder of a farmerin 1900. The man had been killed with an axe while his wife was“sleeping.” His wife was later arrested at his funeral after ﬁndingthe hidden axe on their property and rumors of an unhappymarriage.Many locals showed up to the trial. There were no witnesses, sohard evidence was important. However, the jury convicted her,primarily because the woman was not feminine in complainingabout her marital issues and having a child out of wedlock.Triﬂes was Glaspell’s way of returning the woman’s dignity bymaking the motive for her murder more sympathetic to thedomestic life of women.
CharactersMr. Wright- murder victimMrs. Wright- taken into custody on suspicion of murder. Sheonce was lively and sang in the choir but after her marriage, shebecame withdrawn and was seldom visited.Mr. George Henderson- the young county attorney, who makesnote of the woman’s role in maintaining the domestic hearth,especially when he criticizes Mrs. Wright’s kitchen and makesfun of the women for worrying about the feminine “triﬂes” ofthe home.Mr. Peters, the county sheriff, also pokes fun at the women andtheir trivial concerns.
CharactersMr. Hale- witnessed Mrs. Wright on the night ofher husband’s murder acting very bizarrely.Mrs. Peters- new to the town and respectful of herhusband’s position. She agrees with the law, butunderstands Mrs. Wright’s lonely domestic life.Mrs. Hale- the larger of the two women who takespersonal offense at the men’s condescension ofwomen. She regrets not visiting Mrs. Wright moreoften.
Signiﬁcant ScenesThe men and women arrive at the Wright home.The men gather at the hearth and criticize themessy upkeep while the women withdraw and stayby the door.The women ﬁnd Mrs. Wright’s preserves in thecupboard have been ruined by the cold, but theydecide not to tell Mrs. Wright because she workedhard on them. The men criticize them forworrying about triﬂes, and move upstairs.These scenes demonstrate the men’s attitude ofsuperiority to the women and the differences feltbetween the genders. It is sympathetic to theoppression of the women in their domestic life.
Signiﬁcant ScenesMrs. Peters and Mrs. Hale speculate on why the murdererused a rope instead of a gun in the house, and reminisce onthe happy Minnie Foster before she became the marriedMrs. Wright.They decide to bring Mrs. Wright her unﬁnished quilt, butwhile looking for sewing materials, they discover an emptybirdcage in the cupboard and a delicately wrapped deadcanary in the sewing box that was killed in the samemanner as Mr. Wright. They hide the bird before the mencome downstairs.These events establish the women as the protagonists of thestory. They also subtly uncover evidence as to why Mrs.Wright murdered her husband, providing a sympatheticperspective into the lonely trials of the domestic life of thetime
Signiﬁcant ScenesMrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters compare the canary’ssong to the young Mrs. Wright, and decide thatshe murdered Mr. Wright to get revenge forsilencing her bird.The men return, trusting the objects Mrs. Petershas because she has “married the law.” Theyassume the women haven’t discussed anythingproductive. The men aren’t able to ﬁnd anyconclusive evidence to convict Mrs. Wright.
Dramatic Elements• Stage Directions- Detailed and show the care the women put into their investigation- “Takes the bottle, looks about for something to wrap it in; takes petticoat from the clothes brought from the other room…” They also demonstrate the barrier felt between the men and women by having them stand physically apart.
Dramatic Elements• Set Design- The entire play takes place in the front room of the Wright’s home, which was simply decorated. This was Mrs. Wright’s daily domain, and also where the evidence uncovering her violent motives is discovered. The unchanging setting is consistent with the domestic woman’s sheltered life of the time.
Themes• Female Identity and Patriarchal dominance- the woman are dominated by the men in every aspect of their life, but the men fail to recognize and appreciate the simple joys and struggles of a woman’s life. The men in the play are given a ﬁrst and last name, but the women are only referred to by their husbands’ last names. The women are able to connect with each other under their mutual oppression, and resolve that they need to look out for one another.
Themes• Law and justice- Mrs. Hale criticize the men for disrespecting Mrs. Wright’s home and treating it simply as a crime scene, but Mrs. Peters sticks up for them claiming they are just doing their job. The women questionably hide the evidence they ﬁnd; they believe that Mrs. Wright’s actions are justiﬁable, given her circumstances. Appropriately, the name of the short story adapted from Trifles is "A Jury of Her Peers," indicating that Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters have served as an impromptu jury and have chosen to dismiss the charges in the name of justice and their duty as women.
Important QuotationsWell, women are used to worrying overtriﬂes. - Mr. Hale Hale casually makes this statement from which the play takes its title when Mrs. Peters calls attention to what she regards as the significance of the exploded jars of fruit preserves. In doing so, he gently chides the women for lacking the common sense and mental focus to pay attention to the important things, but he suggests that the men should forgive them for their foibles because they are only women and thus deal every day in small, unimportant details. Furthermore, his words imply that because women deal in trifles, women must also be trifles. However, his patronizing tone is undermined throughout the play as the women ultimately outwit the men and prove their worth, and not coincidentally does Glaspell have the women draw together after he utters this sentence. Meanwhile, the men spend all their time looking for evidence because they have forgotten that evidence often consists of the little things - especially when no eyewitnesses are involved.
QuotationsCOUNTY ATTORNEY: No--its not cheerful. Ishouldnt say she had the homemaking instinct.MRS. HALE: Well, I dont know as Wright had,either. The county attorney and Mrs. Hale represent opposing sides in the matter of understanding domestic felicity. Henderson assumes that females are solely responsible for the domestic realm and consequently concludes that any lack of cheer in the Wright farmhouse must result from Mrs. Wrights incompetence. Mrs. Hale resents Hendersons ideas because she recognizes that although domesticity has a physical aspect, the greater part comes from the emotional and mental state of the people in the household. In her mind, because John Wright lacked the ability to empathize with his wife and because he made her feel so lonely, he is the one truly responsible for the unhappiness in their household. Henderson keeps promising to return to the subject of the state of the Wrights marriage, but he never does and thus never comes to understand her viewpoint.
QuotationsWell, I dont think she did. Asking for an apronand her little shawl. Worrying about her fruit.- Mrs. Hale Prior to their discovery of the quilt, Mrs. Peters claims that she has no idea if Mrs. Wright actually committed the crime, but Mrs. Hale states her definite opinion that Mrs. Wright is innocent, with the implication that no one so focused on trifles such as her fruit preserves and her apron could be guilty. However, Mrs. Hale later proves to be incorrect, which leaves the question of how and why she made her error in thinking. Most likely, her assertion of Minnie Wrights innocence is based partly on loyalty to a friend and partly on her assumption that a concern with trifles is incompatible with a concern with larger problems. However, as Mrs. Hale herself shows when she and Mrs. Peters decide to hide the evidence by pretending to be interested in unimportant matters, taking an interest in smaller details can be a convenient way to hide ones true thoughts. Meanwhile, the faith that Mrs. Hale shows in proclaiming Minnies innocence is later transferred into a determination to protect her from the law.
Questions1. What other themes are prevalent throughoutTriﬂes?2. Could these themes be compared to the otherIB dramas?3. What are two (2) claims that can be made forTriﬂes?
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