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The Importance of Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters in Susan Glaspell's Trifles

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The patented murder mystery, in all its addictive predictability, presents the audience with numerous cliches: a stormy night, a shadowy figure, a sinister butler, and a mysterious phone call. Susan Glaspell's Trifles does not fit this mold. Glaspell's mysterious inquiry into the murder of John Wright presents the reader with only one suspect, Mrs. Wright. Even though the court examiner and sheriff cannot find evidence against Mrs. Wright, the reader can plausibly argue the case against the neglected wife. Glaspell's use of descriptive language and subtle hints established the mood, presents the motive, and uncovers the evidence needed to solve this murder mystery.

Setting the proper mood is important for any play, especially one that requires that its readers be wary of the surroundings. The first glimpse the reader gets of the setting is that of an "abandoned farmhouse . . . [and] a gloomy kitchen" (Glaspell 127). These first words give the readers a heightened state of tension and prepare them for darker events yet to come. Mrs. Hale repeatedly describes the cold house as not being "a very cheerful place" and mentions that it might not have been "any cheerfuller for John Wright's being in it" (130). These comments coming from a neighbor lead the reader to believe that Mrs. Wright was not happy in her surroundings largely because of her husband. Even the rocking chair in which Mrs. Wright sat seems tainted with unpleasantness. Mrs. Peters ahs to "shake off the mood which the empty rocking chair [evokes]" (131) before she continues her conversation with Mrs. Hale. The strange feeling the house provokes prods the women to think more deeply into the events leading to John Wright's death. This curiosity allows the women to u...


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...would have much more difficulty portraying the evidence to the reader. This portrayal not only makes the story more interesting, but it also increases the character development of this short drama.

Works Cited

Banner, Lois. Women in Modern America: A Brief History. New York: Harcourt Brace, 1974.

Glaspell, Susan. Trifles. Making Literature Matter: An Anthology for Readers and Writers. Ed.  John Schilb and John Clifford. Boston: Bedford / St. Martin's, 2000. 127-137.

Glaspell, Susan. "Trifles." Plays by Susan Glaspell. New York: Dodd, Mead and Company,  Inc., 1920. Reprinted in Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry and Drama.  X.J. Kennedy and Dana Gioia Eds. New York: Harper Collins Publisher, 1995.    

Hewitt, Nancy. "Beyond the Search for Sisterhood: American Women's History in the 1980's."Social History. Vol. 10: No. 3 (1985): 299-321


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