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Theatre / Trifles

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Trifles is a one-act play by Susan Glaspell, where an attorney, George Henderson, and a sheriff, Henry Peters, go to investigate the death of a local man by the name of John Wright.

The men and their wives go to the Wrights' farmhouse and find John's wife, Minnie, acting a little off. According to her, when Lewis Hale questioned her, she fell asleep and she awoke to find out that someone strangled her husband.

Glaspell adapted her play into a 1917 short story titled "A Jury of Her Peers." The story was made into an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents and also into a 1980 short film, A Jury of Her Peers.

Associated Tropes:

  • Animal Motifs: Minnie is associated with birds, as, it's mentioned she was, for all intents and purposes, free and happy (along with that, she loved to sing) before her marriage to John. Tying into this, the dead bird could easily represent how the Minnie from years ago has been "killed" by her marriage.
  • Ambiguous Ending: Teetering on No Ending, we don't know if Minnie was found guilty or not
  • Adaptation Expansion: An odd case of this, as the A Jury of Her Peers adds more details that weren't seen in the original play.
  • Break the Cutie: Minnie has gone through this as she was happy before her marriage, but her marriage to John effectively turned her into a shell of what she used to be.
  • Chekhov's Gun: When Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters find the dead canary. Said canary was killed in much the same manner as John was.
  • Death of Personality: Minnie is a metaphorical case of this, which is referenced by the use of her names, especially her maiden name and her married name. As Minnie Foster, she was happy and free, but as Minnie Wright, the free spirit within is gone, leaving behind the isolated wife.
  • Domestic Abuse: As we get further in the story, we find out that John Wright is a textbook case of this trope, as he's very cruel to his wife Minnie, and their marriage is practically loveless. Along with that, he isolates her. The tipping point of this was when he killed Minnie's pet canary.
  • The Dog Bites Back: Minnie kills her husband, not just to avenge her canary but for all of the abuse she's endured at the hands of her husband.
  • Kick the Dog: John does this when he kills Minnie's pet canary, her only joy in her life while being married to him.
  • Minimalist Cast: There are seven characters total, but two, Minnie and John, aren't seen onscreen.
  • No Name Given: Mrs. Peters isn't named, however, Mrs. Hale is named "Martha" in the story A Jury of Her Peers
  • "Not So Different" Remark: As Mrs. Peters put it, "I know how things can be for women. We all go through the same thing, it's just a different kind of the same thing."
  • Ripped from the Headlines: The play is loosely based on a case where a woman, named Margaret Hossack, killed her husband John.
  • Rule of Symbolism: Minnie Wright's being is mostly tied to her belongings, like her preserves, her quilting, and her canary, along with her kitchen. It's noted that her kitchen is cold, symbolizing her marriage to John, and one jar of her preserves is shattered, which symbolizes how her marriage broke her spirit. In that vein, the caged bird symbolizes the roles of women in late 19th/early 20th-century society.
  • Stay in the Kitchen: A narrative/symbolic example, as the men go to investigate the barn and the bedroom, where men would traditionally have more dominance, while the women are left to search the kitchen, a place where women would hold more authority, where they find a key piece of evidence.
  • Title Drop: "Well, women are used to worrying over trifles."
  • To Be Lawful or Good: Martha and Mrs. Peters find themselves dealing with this on a more personal level as, to them, Minnie is a victim of abuse and circumstance, while, to Henry and George, she's a suspect in a murder and not much else, so they hide the evidence of a motive.
  • Women Are Wiser: Not so much "wiser" in this case but rather more understanding, as Mrs. Peters and Martha, upon reviewing the evidence, find out why Minnie killed her husband, in which case, they opt to hide that evidence.