Trifles and Mr. Hale
The scene of Susan Glaspell’s play “Trifles” is set in a gloomy, unkempt, and now abandoned farm house. The town sheriff, the county attorney, and Mr. Hale along with the sheriff’s wife and Mrs. Hale, a neighbor, enter through the kitchen. The men are there to investigate the death of the owner, Mr. Wright. The women have come along to gather some things to take to Mrs. Wright who is in jail for the murder of her husband. Susan Glaspell ties the use of exposition, conflict, and symbol together to reveal the gloomy and hopeless mood of this play.
Glaspell ties exposition together with conflict from the very beginning of this play. Here we meet Mr. and Mrs. Wright, who never actually take a physical part in the play. Although Mr. and Mrs. Wright are the main characters in “Trifles” Glaspell uses exposition to introduce the couple. We see Mr. Wright’s personality in Mr. Hale’s statement, “I didn’t know as what his wife wanted made much difference to John” (Glaspell 810). Mrs. Wright is introduced by Mr. Hale. Mr. Hale had stopped by the Wright’s house to discuss a matter with Mr. Wright. Mr. Hale says. “She was rockin’ back and forth.
She had her apron in her hand and was kind of pleating it. (Glaspell 810). Mr. Hale also tells the county attorney that, “She looked queer” (Glaspell 810). The conflict comes into play during the exposition when we are led to doubt the Wright’s character because of statements made by Mr. Hale. Next, we see Glaspell use symbol during the exposition to portray the gloomy attitude of men toward women and what they think is important. During the initial search of the house the county attorney finds some broken jars with preserves in them. The jars had broken due to the cold weather the night before. Mrs.
Peters, the sheriff’s wife, states, “She worried about that when it turned so cold” (Glaspell 811). The county attorney responds by saying, “I guess before we’re though she may have something more serious than preserves to worry about”, followed by Mr. Hale stating. “Well, women are used to worrying over trifles” (Glaspell). Glaspell finally ties conflict together with symbol. We see this in the conversation between the sheriff’s wife and Mrs. Hale. While searching for Mrs. Wright’s shawl the two ladies discover a bird cage that has been damaged; a sign of someone being rough with it. Mrs. Hale recalls that before Mrs.
Wright had married Mr. Wright, “She was a happy person, real sweet and timid, just like a bird” (Glaspell 816). She also recalls how Mrs. Wright had changed after her marriage to Mr. Wright; who she recalls as being a “hard man” (Glaspell 816). The two women later discover the bird in a pretty red box, dead with a broken neck. Glaspell’s use of symbol, with the bird and the bird cage, ties together with conflict here to give the reader a mental picture of Mrs. Wright’s gloomy and hopeless life with Mr. Wright. Glaspell uses exposition, conflict, and symbol in “Trifles” to portray the gloomy, hopeless mood of this play.
The hopeless feelings of Mrs. Wright are displayed through the observations and opinions of the characters in this play. The distant, controlling, and abusive character of Mr. Wright is also revealed through other opinions and observations of the characters. I found it interesting than most of the revelations of the main characters, the Wright’s, come from the women in this play. Glaspell does an excellent job of displaying the mood of this play with her crafty use of exposition, conflict, and symbol. Works Cited Glaspell, Susan. “Trifles. ” Gioia, X. J. Kennedy and Dana. Literature An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, Drama, and Writing.
New York: Pearson, 2010. 809-819. As a native of Iowa, Susan Glaspell attended and graduated from Drake University with a degree in Philosophy. After graduating from college, she began working for the Des Moines Daily News as a reporter. While working as a reporter Glaspell had to cover a murder that involved the murder of a local farmer at the hands of his wife. She used this knowledge to write her first dramatic play Trifles. Susan Glaspell uses irony, symbolism, and setting in her play Trifles to convey her thoughts about society’s perceptions about gender roles and the relationships between women.
Throughout the whole play there are instances of irony, but the most significant form of irony would have to be the title. The word trifles refers to things that are of little value or importance. In the play the quilt, the bird, the birdcage, and the unkempt kitchen were trifles to the men, but they were actually very important clues in solving the murder. Another ironic moment in the play is at the end of the play when Mr. Henderson and Mrs. Hale have a short conversation about the quilt. The setting helps to add to the suspense of the play. This play is set during the winter when it is cold and chilly outside which is representation of Mr. nd Mrs. Wright who never really interacted with their neighbors.
It is almost as if Glaspell uses Mr. and Mrs. Wright’s cold and unfriendly personalities to justify the murder. Also, the Wright’s never had any children and this made the house even more cold and lonely. The weather outside and the atmosphere of the house, lonely and lifeless, also has a subliminal influence on the other characters as there is a noticeable divide between the men and women. As the men arrived to the lonely home along with two of their wives they enter the kitchen to warm up by the stove one by one. Later, they separate into two groups, the men and the women.
There are many different symbols that help portray the relationship between the Wrights’ and how Mrs. Wright felt after the murder. The quilt that Mrs. Wright was making was usually well constructed and had neat seams, but after the she murdered her husband, the seams on the quilt became crooked. In “Trifles”, irony is used in the title of the play. By definition,” trifles” are things of little value, substance or importance. Trifles also describes a dessert typically consisting of plain or sponge cake, soaked with wine or spirits, topped with layers of preserves, custard and cream.
In the play, both definitions apply, however, by no means are the trifles in this play of little value, substance or importance. The conflict in the play is present immediately due to the sudden death of Mr. Wright possibly at the hands of his wife. The conflict continues due to the bonds formed by the female characters and those formed by the male characters in response to this tragedy. The female characters present at the now abandoned Wright‘s farmhouse are Mrs. Peters, wife of the county sheriff; Mrs. Hale, wife of a neighboring farmer. Mr. & Mrs.
Wright are the most important characters in the play, however, the two are not physically present due to Mr. Wright being deceased and Mrs. Wright being jailed for alleged murdering him. The male characters present at the farmhouse are George Henderson, the county attorney; Henry Peters, the county sheriff; and Lewis Hale, a neighboring farmer. The county attorney promptly offends Mrs. Peters and Mrs. Hale by discussing Mrs. Wright’s poor housekeeping, “Not much of a housekeeper would you say, ladies? ”(Glaspell 812) The double plot is brought about as the men separate from the women during the evidence collection process at the farmhouse.
The men go looking around the farmhouse for evidence that would provide a motive while the women actually stumble upon the motive. In conclusion, I suspect if there was a second scene to this play, the women would continue to agonize over the evidence discovered until they turned it over to the men, then again “Well, Women are used to worrying over trifles” (Glaspell 812). Strong bonds can be formed out of empathy for someone with similar life experience or circumstance as clearly represented in the play “Trifles”. I look for to also reading “A Jury of Her Peers. ”