Trifles

Feminist drama

Trifles is seen as an example of early feminist drama. Its two female characters, Mrs. Peters and Mrs. Hale, are able to sympathize with the victim's wife, Minnie, and their understanding of her possible motive leads them to the evidence against her. The men, meanwhile, are blinded by their cold, emotionless investigation of material facts. The female characters find the body of a canary, which had its neck wrung, killed in the same way as the deceased (John Wright), thus leading them to the conclusion that Minnie was the murderer. Clearly, the wife is symbolized by the caged bird, a common symbol of women's roles in society. The plot concludes with the two women hiding the evidence against Minnie.

The male characters are prejudiced in believing that nothing important can be discovered in areas of the house where Minnie spent most of her time. Their minds are clouded by prejudice and they disregard important clues as being mere "trifles" that women concern themselves with, searching the barn and the bedroom, places where men have dominance, rather than the kitchen, the only place where a woman would be in charge. One important line, spoken by the sheriff, says of the kitchen "Nothing here but kitchen things." This dismissal of the importance of the woman's life and the male reluctance to enter the "woman's sphere" is key in the men's failure to discover the crucial evidence for the case. The most important evidence, the dead canary that the two women find, was hidden in Minnie's sewing basket. The men scorn the domestic sphere, even kicking some of the items in contempt.

The two women, having pieced together the murder, face the moral dilemma of telling the men about the motive or protecting Minnie, whom they see as a victim. Their choice raises questions about solidarity among women, the meaning of justice, and the role of women in society as a source of justice.


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