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The Summary of “Trifles” by Susan Glaspell

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Trifles by Susan Glaspell is a play written in the early nineteen hundreds. What happens is a farmer by the name John Wright is murdered and the culprit is thought to be Minnie Wright, John’s wife. This play takes place in the kitchen of John Wright’s abandoned farmhouse. This case is investigated by three men: the sheriff of the town Henry Peters, the county attorney George Henderson, and a neighboring farmer Lewis Hale. The wives of Mr. Hale and Mr. Peters go along with the men to the crime scene. The Men take a more traditional route to solving the murder by looking for evidence throughout the house, while the women stay in the kitchen and draw their conclusions from “the everyday details of a farm women’s kitchen” (915 prologue).

Even though the men take the more logical route in solving crimes, it is the women who uncover what happened by looking at the mishaps in the kitchen. Some of the mishaps are the ruined fruit preserves, the unfinished quilt, and the empty bird cage. The bird cage is a significant piece of evidence in the play because of the condition it was left in. The door hinge was broken, and the bird was nowhere to be found. Eventually, the women find the bird in a box in Mrs. Wright’s sewing basket (1.1.110-115). The condition in which the bird was left was similar to how John Wright died. John was hung by his wife, while the bird died from getting its neck wrung by Mr. Wright (1.1.115). This was the main factor in determining that Mrs. Wright killed her husband. Even though this piece of evidence was crucial in the case, Mrs. Hale did not give it to the men, but hid it from them so that Minnie could live her old life again. Trifles is an example of a Modern Realistic Drama and a Problem play. A Modern Realistic Drama is a type of Drama that wants to paint the picture of how life is experienced by the common man and woman. These types of plays do not have mystical creatures in them, nor do they have to deal with abstract concepts such as the plot of Oedipus Rex. Modern Realistic Dramas have characters that the average person can relate to.

Also, this type of drama has language that modern English speaking people use frequently and understand easily. Trifles does not use Shakespearean English, but it uses normal English. For example in line 3 of Trifles, the Sheriff says “Now, Mr. Hale, before we move things about, you explain to Mr. Henderson just what you saw when you came here yesterday morning.” (1.1.3-4). Trifles shows the characteristics of a Modern Realistic Drama by the use of its common language, relatable plot, and characters that would be seen in real life, but it also has a dramatic side to it. The way the Trifles is considered a drama is because of the plot in the play. The plot of Trifles is that there is a group of people who are investigating a murder. This plot makes Trifles a problem play.

A problem play is a play that has a major personal, social, or political problem that causes the play’s dramatic concepts. In Trifles, the problem that the people face is a murder of a man by his wife. This murder can be seen as either unethical or ethical. The men in the play see the murder as unethical because they do not look at the background in which Mrs. Wright was living in, rather they just looked at the present and saw her as a murderer. The women of the play see the murder as ethical to some degree because of the way that Mr. Wright changed Minnie’s view of the world. Before Minnie married John Wright, she was exuberant and lovely all the time. The moment she married John, her mood changed from being a happy-go-lucky gal to being a depressed housewife. The women thought that because John put Minnie through all that misery for most of her life, that the murder was not as unethical as it may appear.


Glaspell, Susan. Trifles. Literature: An Introduction to Reading and Writing. Ed. Edgar V. Roberts and Robert Zweig. 5th compact ed. New York: Pearson Longman, 2012. 915-926. Print.

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