Perceptions of Men and Women Revealed in Susan Glaspell's Trifles
Human beings not only live in the physical world but also survive in the emotional world. Frequently, one's emotional world actually controls the actions one commits in the physical world. Perception plays an enormous part in what one feels is important and what one feels is unimportant. Is there a difference between perception of men and women? In Susan Glaspell's story Trifles, she examines the difference of perception between men and women in a unique way by revealing these differences in the solving of a murder case. The difference between what the men and women perceive to be important pieces of evidence is astonishing. Glaspell uses symbols as interpreted by the different genders to help explore these perceptual divergences for the reader.
Introduction of the characters occurs as the play opens so they are all privy to the same information and have an opportunity to discuss the investigation. The characters themselves are symbols. George Henderson, who is the county attorney, is perceived to be very intelligent and will be able to convict Mrs. Wright of the murder of her husband. Henry Peters, the sheriff, is not as well educated as the county attorney but desires to uphold the law. Lewis Hale, a neighboring farmer, is the person who discovers Mr. Wright's body. Mr. Wright who is dead, is the symbol that allows the play to evolve. These are the men of the play. Mrs. Peters, who is the sheriff's wife, has come to the Wright's home with Mrs. Hale to retrieve some personal items for Mrs. Wright, who is in jail. Mrs. Hale, the wife of Mr. Hale and neighbor to the Wrights, has come to gather Mrs. Wright's possessions to take back to the jail. Mrs. Peters has come with Mrs. Hale to keep her company. Finally, the character of Mrs. Wright, who becomes the focus of the play instead of her dead husband, is not on the scene but sitting in jail. These are the women of the play. The stage is now set for Glaspell to reveal to the reader how important perception is. According to Glaspell, perception is not just interpreting the physical evidence but also the emotional motives that would cause such a desperate murder.
As the investigation starts, the men are worrying about the crime scene's having been secured or not. The county attorney is questioning Mr. Hale about how he came to discover Mr. Wright's body. His answer is telling, although the county attorney does not perceive this answer as being of any importance. Mr. Hale is telling the county attorney that he had stopped to ask Mr. Hale to go in on a party line with him, although he had asked once before: "'I spoke to Wright about it once before and he put me off, saying folks talked too much anyway, and all he asked was peace and quiet'" (1173). At the time he discovered the body, Mr. Hale had thought that he would go to Mrs. Wright and get her to persuade Mr. Wright, although he says, "'I didn't know as what his wife...