Analysis of Susan Glaspell’s Trifles

Marguerite De Valois once said, “Woman was taken out of man; not out of his head to top him, nor out of his feet to be trampled underfoot; but out of his side to be equal to him, under his arm to be protected, and near his heart to be loved.” In Susan Glaspell’s Trifles a group of characters gather at the home of the Wrights. The characters are trying to piece together evidence that would convict Mrs. Wright in the murder of her husband. This plot is merely just a portal in which to pass along a bigger message. In the play Susan Glaspell expresses her belief that men viewed women’s roles as being of very little importance which inevitably caused women to actually believe it. There are three types of quotes that Susan Glaspell uses in Trifles to express this.

The first example comes up when the group of characters are in the kitchen. The Sheriff has said that there is nothing worth looking at in the kitchen as it is just “kitchen things” (Glaspell 9). Mrs. Peters points out a broken jar of preserves. In the play the Sheriff says, “Well, you can beat the women! Held for murder and worryin’ about her preserves” (Glaspell 10). Even though the sheriff is only saying that it is pointless to worry about preserves when one is facing criminal charges, what he means to say is that there are certain things that only women seem to worry about. “Preserves” happens to be one of them. But “preserves” can symbolize anything that women worry over that men see more as trifles. There is another point in the play when the women comment on the tidiness of the house and how she must not have been happy with her husband. However, it seems Susan Glaspell expresses her view that all the men see is a messy house and that the wife was not a very good house keeper. They do not see these things as being very important. The women realize that these small things that the men call trifles could actually go towards motives. Mrs. Wright did not appear to be happy with her husband. They knew this because of the little “trifles” that they discovered. Maybe that was the reason that she murdered her husband. Not only did the men see the worries of women as unimportant, but the women were always connected to who the men were.

Susan Glaspell expresses her belief that once a woman gets married, they lose most of their identity. They become whoever their husband is. For instance in the play the County Attorney said, “For that matter, a sheriff’s wife is married to the law” (Glaspell 30). It is unknown who Mrs. Peters was before she wed. However, in the play she is mostly described as being the Sheriff’s wife. Even in the stage directions she is not given a name right away. The beginning stage directions of the play says, “They are followed by the two women – the Sheriff’s wife first; she is a slight wiry woman, a thin nervous face” (Glaspell 1). This also proves how little importance the women supposedly have in the play. They are seen as minor characters, while the men take the leading roles. More is revealed about the character of Mrs. Wright. It goes more in detail about her life before she was married and how she changed. 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. From the state of her house, the women believed it to reflect on her husband. A happy wife would want to keep a clean home, while an unhappy wife would not care as much about the appearance. Men thought very little of the role that women played outside of being housewives. In the play it seems that women also believed the men; that they had little importance.

In the play the women find the missing bird in a pretty box. They believed that Mrs. Wright was going to bury it because she loved her bird. This was obvious as the bird was wrapped in silk and placed neatly in the box. They also believed that it was not Mrs. Wright who killed the bird, but Mr. Wright. In the play Mrs. Hale says, “No, Wright wouldn’t like the bird – a thing that sang. She used to sing. He killed that, too” (Glaspell 26). The women connected the two events of the bird’s death and the marriage of the Wrights together. When Mrs. Wright had been “Minnie Foster” she had been happy and part of the reason she had been happy was because she loved to sing. But just like the bird who loved to sing, Mr. Wright killed it. Her marriage suffocated her happiness when she stopped singing just as the bird stopped singing after Mr. Wright killed it. Though it is also unknown who actually killed the bird, but speculation can argue that it had been Mr. Wright and not his wife.

However, the women did not dare share their theories with the men. They did not believe that their theories on the situation warranted any respect from the men. They would not share what they believed to be important, because they knew the men would only see them as trivial. In the play Mrs. Peters says, “My, it’s a good thing the men couldn’t hear us. Wouldn’t they just laugh! Getting all stirred up over a little thing like a – dead canary. As if that could have anything to do with – with- wouldn’t they laugh” (Glaspell 29). The women believed that if they discussed their theories with their husbands that the men would laugh at them. Not only that, but they put their own theories down as being trifles. How could something that small be related to something so huge like a murder? A murder was very serious. A dead bird was just a trifle that women seemed to worry about. It would have no meaning to the men. So the women did not even try. However, it seems that where the men failed to come up with a motive, the women had succeeded. They had gathered theories after having studied the entire picture. The men were only interested at finding evidence that was glaringly obvious. They did not wish to look at the small trifles, which were not small trifles at all, like the women. The women, however, did not trust that these trifles would be able to solve the crime. This is because of the little value that men put over women in the society. If men had been better towards them then I believe women would have thought better about themselves.

In Susan Glaspell’s Trifles, the plot is merely a portal in which the author was able to pass along a bigger message. She uses the murder of John Wright to express her anger with men and how they hold women so much lower them. She believes that this treatment is unjustified as women are just as smart if not smarter than men. In the play the women had been able to piece together the motive of why Mrs. Wright had killed her husband. The men had not been able to do this. And since the men had convinced the women that the things they worried about were so small they had not even brought up the bird. Rather they had lied to cover up what they had found. Just as Mrs. Wright had suffocated in her marriage, the women are suffocating in oppression. They are unable to raise their voices as they are afraid of not being heard. I shall leave you with one more quote.


Glaspell, Susan. “Trifles.” University of Virginia Library. University of Virginia Library. Web. 26 Oct. 2011. .

People also view

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *