The Importance Of Mrs. Hale And Mrs. Peters In Susan Glaspell's Trifles

1124 words - 4 pages

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 uncover a motive.

The reader knows form the author's descriptions and Mrs. Hale's testimony that Mrs. Wright leads an unhappy life. She had been neglected and oppressed by her stern husband. Even Mr. Hale suspects that Mrs. Wright's wants and needs made little impact on John (128). Mrs. Hale describes John as "a hard man," and proceeds to compare him to a "raw wind" (134). Living with such a man for over thirty years must have been unbearable for the once lively, cheerful Mrs. Wight, who was "real sweet and pretty, but kind of timid and--fluttery" (134). This description shows quite a change in personality when compared to the distant, emotionless traits she has assumed since being married to John. If in fact Mrs. Wright had killed her husband, she would become the second murderer in the household; John had killed the sweet, spirited Minnie Foster that Mrs. Hale remembers and molded her into the angry, nervous Mrs. Wright that the reader comes to know. Mrs. Wright appears to have valid reasons to kill her husband, but such a timid woman would not react so violently to these motives. Mrs. Wright stored up all of her hatred and discontent within herself but needed an event to light the fuse. The women inadvertently find...

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