The information the reader receives about Minnie Wright comes from the conversation between the men and Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters, but we can draw some valid inferences in her defense in court as to why she was driven to kill her husband. It would still be difficult to prove her innocence, given the social norms of that male-dominated society that believed that the daily chores the women carry out, even the women themselves, were "trifles."
Minnie could have used several aspects of her life with Wright to defend herself—first, a psychotic break or temporary insanity. Glaspell introduces the idea of mental instability when the sheriff makes a reference to "insanity," which could allude to Minnie's state of mind. He reports that someone had to go to Morris Center to deal with a man "who went crazy." When Hale arrived at the Wrights' home, Minnie was acting crazy herself...rocking back and forth in her chair, "pleating" her skirt. He notes that she looked "queer" and "kind of done up" (done in or wiped out).
Minnie's state of mind is further evidenced by Hale's report of Minnie's odd behavior. He had told Minnie that he wanted to see her husband and she laughed, but it sounded peculiar to Hale. When he asked to see Wright, Minnie told Hale that Wright was dead:
"Dead?" says I. She just nodded her head, not getting a bit excited, but rockin' back and forth.
Speaking to Minnie's state of mind, Mrs. Hale notes of their home:
It never seemed a very cheerful place.
And when the attorney comments on Minnie's "homemaking instinct," Mrs. Hale responds:
Well, I don't know as Wright had, either...I don't think a place'd be any cheerfuller for John Wright's being in it.
We learn more about the marriage; Mrs. Hale says:
Wright was close [stingy]. I think maybe that's why she kept so much to herself...you don't enjoy things when you feel shabby.
Minnie could argue that she lived a harsh life. Hale tells Mrs. Wright that he came to see if her husband would split the cost of a phone line with him—and Minnie laughs outright. Mrs. Hale has already reported that Wright was stingy. We can infer that his wife believes it preposterous that he would ever agree to share the cost of anything with anyone.
Hale reports that Minnie looked scared. This could be a sign of her guilt, but one wonders if she was fearful of her husband: his rage is obvious when the women find the birdcage; they note that someone has been "rough" with it. Wright's propensity toward violence is obvious when the women find the dead bird. It was intentionally killed.
MRS. PETERS. Somebody--wrung--its neck.
The threat Wright presented is frightfully apparent as Mrs. Hale speaks of "killing."
No, Wright wouldn't like the bird--a thing that sang. She used to sing. He killed that, too.
Here is a strong inference that Wright was a violent man. Mrs. Hale believes he was a threat. Minnie could have argued that she feared for her life.
Mrs. Peters also notes how lonely the house is; Minnie never had children.
Mrs. Hale reflects on life with Mr. Wright:
...he didn't drink, and kept his word as well as most...and paid his debts. But he was a hard man, Mrs. Peters. Just to pass the time of day with him. (Shivers.) Like a raw wind that gets to the bone.
These details, reported by other characters, would provide a number of pertinent facts aiding in Minnie's self-defense for killing her husband: emotional (and physical?) abuse, loneliness, and mental instability.
Relationships in Trifles Essay
1291 Words6 Pages
Susan Glaspell's play Trifles explores male-female relationships through the murder investigation of the character of Mr. Wright. It also talks about the stereotypes that women faced. 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. The attorney, with the intensions of proving that Mrs. Wright choked the husband to death, was interviewing Mr. Hale on what he saw when he came in to the house. The women, on the other hand, were just there to get some clothing for the wife who was in jail for suspected murder of her husband. However, the clues which would lead them to the answer…show more content…
The men, though, laugh at the women's wonderings about the quilt. To them it is of little importance. Likewise, the bird 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 broken door overlooked, the county attorney asks, "Has the bird flown?'" Mrs. Peters replies that the "'cat got it'" (360). 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. 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 not only 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 on the basic level of womanhood. This is apparent from the start of the play. Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters "stand close together near the door," 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.