Susan Glaspell's Trifles - Little Things Mean a Lot


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Little Things Mean a Lot in Trifles  

Susan Glaspell's play, Trifles, explores the fact that women pay attention to the little things that may lead to the solving of a bigger problem. Why are women so into the little things? The attention to detail seems to be the starting point to solving the bigger problem. Think of the little things as pieces of a puzzle. When the small pieces come together you see the bigger picture. In the play Trifles the men seem to think the women only worry about the little things, or trifles. What the men do not realize is that the women are actually solving the murder by worrying, or trifling, over the small details. To really understand this aspect we have to look at the play itself. The first example of the attention to detail is the fruit preserves. In lines seventy-eight to seventy-nine Mrs. Peters says, "She worried about that when it turned so cold. She said the fire'd go out and her jars would break." To which the Sheriff replies, "Well, can you beat the women! Held for murder and worrin' about her preserves." In line eighty-three Mr. Hale says, "Well, women are use to worrying over trifles." If Mrs. Wright had not been preoccupied, she could have started a fire to keep the preserves from freezing. Another example of trifling is noticing that Mrs. Wright did not awake while her husband was being strangled to death. Unless the Wrights slept in separate beds, Mrs. Wright should have felt the struggle between her husband and the murderer. Even though Mrs. Wright said she was a deep sleeper, she still should have heard the gasping for air and the struggle that was going on right next to her. Another thing that seemed very strange to everybody was that there was a gun in the house. Why not use the gun? Why use the rope? According to the essay, On Susan Glaspell's Trifles, the author notes, "The strangling of Mr. Wright, which perplexes all when a gun was handy, is reminiscent of the strangling of that bird (1)." The third example of noticing the small things is the piecing of the quilt. The women were wondering if she was going to knot it or quilt it. The Sheriff over hears the conversation and says to the County Attorney in line one hundred and sixty-three, "They wonder if she was going to quilt it or just knot it!" In lines one hundred and sixty-six to sixty-seven Mrs.

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Hale says resentfully, "I don't know as there's anything so strange, our takin' up or time with the little things while we're waiting for them to get the evidence." The women take a closer look at the quilt in lines one hundred and seventy to seventy-two. Mrs. Hale points out that all the sewing was nice and neat until the point where the sewing was all messy. Mrs. Hale points out that the messy sewing is a sign of nervousness. Mrs. Peters disagrees and tries to defend Mrs. Wright by saying that when she gets tired her sewing becomes messy. The author of On Susan Glaspell's Trifles says, "The quilt is a symbol of Minnie's agitation-her anger. The men though, laugh at the women's wonderings about the quilt. To them it is of little importance (1)." The quilt showed a disturbance in Mrs. Wright's life. The knotting of the quilt seemed to be the same type of knot used to strangle Mr. Wright. The women noticed that trifle, but the men were too busy looking at the dead body and making inferences about how Mr. Wright was killed that they overlooked the similar knotting of the quilt and of the rope around Mr. Wright's neck. The next small thing the women pay attention to is the birdcage stuffed in a cupboard with no bird in it. Mrs. Hale asked if the Wrights had a cat. Mrs. Peters replied by saying that Mrs. Wright was superstitious about cats. The men come down the stairs and the county attorney asks, "Has the bird flown?" Mrs. Peters replies, "The cat got it." There is actually no cat, but the men do not know that and never question the existence of it (On Susan Glaspell's Trifles 1). The next example is a broken door hinge. In line one hundred and ninety-eight Mrs. Hale says, "Look as if someone must have been rough with it." That shows anger and hostility. Another example of anger and hostility came from Mrs. Hale. In line two hundred and eighteen Mrs. Hale describes how it was to be around Mr. Wright. "But he was a hard man, Mrs. Peters. Just to pass the time of day with him--like a raw wind that gets to the bone." She continues with the bird saying, "I should think she would'a wanted a bird. But what do you suppose went with it?" Since Mrs. Peters did not know Mrs. Wright, Mrs. Hale talked about Mrs. Wright saying she was like a bird, sweet and pretty, timid and fluttery, but she changed. The Mrs. Wright we know from the story is a cold woman with not much to do in her life. She has no children and all that she had for company was a bird. Mrs. Wright is no longer the sweet fluttery bird she used to be. Mrs. Hale decides to bring some things to Mrs. Wright while she is in jail to keep her mind off of things. While looking for the scissors and more patchwork fabric, Mrs. Hale comes across a box with something wrapped in red silk; it is the bird. In line two hundred and forty Mrs. Hale exclaims, "But, Mrs. Peters--look at it! Look at its neck! Its all--other side to." To which Mrs. Peters replies, "Somebody-wrung-its-neck." At this point the women realize that Mrs. Wright killed her husband, but do not want to break their alliance and turn her in. Both Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Wright cannot believe what they have discovered. One of the town' s best ladies has killed her husband. Because the women look at all the tiny details, they are able to find things the men would never find. The women have solved the case. The men, still trying to figure out what happened, overlooked the small things that made the unsolved mystery solvable. All together, "Women outsmarted the law, men in authority, and even their own husbands because they took notice of the small detail that men cannot see" (Ricker 1).

Works Cited

Glaspell, Susan. Trifles: A Play in One Act. 10 Apr. 2001.  http://www.vcu.edu/engweb/ eng384/trifles.htm

On Susan Glaspell's Trifles. 18 Apr. 2001.  http://www.geocities.com/ms_english101/ Trifles.html.

Ricker, Amanda. "Trifles": Women v. Men. 18 Apr. 2001.

http://www.ukans.edu/wcb/schools/CLAS/engl/dsteward/6/forums/forum1/messages/48.html.

 


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