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Essay: ‘Trifles’ (play)

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  • Subject area(s): Photography and arts essays
  • Reading time: 4 minutes
  • Price: Free download
  • Published: 12 September 2015*
  • File format: Text
  • Words: 930 (approx)
  • Number of pages: 4 (approx)

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The single location that compose the setting for the Trifles is described at the very beginning of the play; it establishes an atmosphere that will later influence our judgment of Mrs. Wright. The gloomy kitchen is disordered, bare, and sparsely equipped with a stove, sink, rocker, cupboard, two tables, some chairs, three doors, and a window portraying a Midwestern farm setting, the play is staged around a kitchen. Three male characters work together in an attempt to solve the murder of Mr. Wright. In the meantime, two female characters bond as they discover clues and the evidence of Mrs. Wright’s guilt as the murderer.

2. Mr. Hale was the first one to discover the death of John Wright. He explains his story to both the sheriff and the county attorney. Later Mrs. Hale tells Mrs. Peters that though Mr. Wright was an honest, good man who paid his bills and did not drink, he was a hard man and like a raw wind that gets to the bone. Mr. Hale’s description of Mrs. Wright sitting in the kitchen dazed and disoriented gives us a picture of a shattered, exhausted woman.

3. Mrs. Wright was known as “Minnie Foster” before she married John Wright. She was described as a cheerful woman who wore colorful clothing and loved to sing. However, these personality traits seemed to dissipate after her marriage.

4. John Wright was a local farmer, he was commonly considered a good, dutiful man, but he was also a hard man and neglected his wife’s happiness. He paid little attention to his wife’s opinions and prevented her from singing. The play centers on the motive for his murder. Mrs. Wright has been kept away from the rest of the society by her husband. She resents the fact that she’s not allowed to socialize or even attend functions at the church. When Mr. Wright becomes angry at her and kills the canary. The canary was symbolic of what Mrs. Wright was like before her marriage; happy, singing, wearing colorful clothes, and the canary’s existence in its cage symbolizes her life since marriage. When he kills the canary, Mrs. Wright goes over the edge emotionally. The broken cage and the sight of the little bird with its broken neck was more than she could bear. She ended her husband’s life in the same way he ended the canary’s life.

5. The clues and evidence noted by the women are seen as ‘trifles’ women’s work is just worrying about the little things, and they don’t mean much of anything. The men look down at the women about their discoveries and in a way laugh at them. They’re just silly, uneducated housewives you know.

6. The bird cage is symbolic for Minnie and her life. She’s was caged just like the bird. Mr. Wright caged her from the outside world and since they had no children all she had was him. The bird itself also was symbolic in the way that it sang. It reflected Minnie’s life from when she was young and sang in the choir. Then of course the death of the bird was symbolic. ‘No, Wright wouldn’t like the bird-a thing that sang. She used to sing like a bird. He killed that, too.

7. The events of the murder shock Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters into a new appreciation of their gender and of the need to support each other. Because she begins the play with a greater awareness of these issues, Mrs. Hale is first to articulate the commonality of the Midwestern female existence. She accepts partial responsibility for having driven Minnie Wright to the crisis that results in murder, and, in the climax of the play, she convinces Mrs. Peters to ally with her in spite of the law.

8. In Trifles, the men believe that they grant female identity by virtue of the women’s relation to men rather than through their inherent qualities as females. Except for the absent Minnie Wright, the women have no first name and take their husband’s last names, despite being the protagonists of the story instead of the named male characters. This institutionalized male superiority is so pervasive that the men feel comfortable in disparaging Mrs. Peters and Mrs. Hale’s interest in “trifles,” with the clear implication that the women are too flighty and small-minded to worry about important issues such as the investigation at hand. In addition, when the men observe the troublesome state of the kitchen, they immediately conclude that the woman must be at fault in her homemaking abilities because they all know John Wright as a good, dutiful man and in consequence form a unified front protecting John Wright’s reputation. Because of this male solidarity, Mrs. Peters and Mrs. Hale can only aid Mrs. Wright. they ally with their own gender.

9. when Mrs. Hale says, “Knot it,” she is referring to a technique for making quilts, but she may also be saying that she has knotted away Mrs. Wright’s secret, that the women are now knotted together in a unified front to protect Mrs. Wright, or that the women are “not it” in a denial that any of them have broken the law.

10. ‘Trifles’ are defined as things which have no value and are considered to be insignificant. Ironically, the men who are so determined to find convicting evidence look past the observations of their wives because they’re seen as insignificant trifles, not realizing that the “trifles” were exactly what they needed in terms of evidence.

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