Trifle is set in an abandoned rural farmhouse in an untidy kitchen. The owner of the house Mr. John Wright has been murdered in the middle of the night when asleep. The sheriff Henry Peters walk in to investigate the case. Mr. George Henderson also walks in; he is the prosecuting attorney in the case (Ben-Zvi, 1992). The mood is claustrophobic, cold winter blows outside the house. The wife of the dead man, Mrs. Minnie Wright is in custody, she is suspected to have been involved in the crime. There is a probability that she might be the one who killed Mr. Wright. Other characters in the play include the neighbors, Mr. and Mrs. Hale. Mr. Hale had visited the house only to be greeted with the news of Mr. Wright’s death. Because of the incident, the men have gathered at Mr. Wrights’ place for a different agenda from the women. Their main aim is to gather evidence from the crime scene. The women on the other hand have come to collect personal effects to take to Mrs. Wright who is in custody.
The feminist agenda is obvious in this play. The play portrays notions of gender. The title itself is an illustration that women are considered trifles in a society dominated by men. The role of women is left to do the less important activities, which are not important (Clarkson, 2003). Men on the other hand, handle issues, which they consider the true work. The sharp contrast between the sexes is an illustration of the oppression that women go through in a society, which is dominated by men. The author is thus calling on women to utilize their subordinate function to control the system. The play is also a call for men to consider their ways as women cannot tolerate it any longer.
The play trifles illustrates the huge differences between men and women. The differences cause women to be pitted against men. The author brings out the feminist theme and contrary to the prevailing traditions. The women triumph against men by being flexible, they view the house as a home. The lives and concerns of these women are contrasted with that of their male counterparts. The women confront defined roles that exist within the social context. Identities such as wives and domestic roles have kept women as subordinates to their husbands (Ben-Zvi, 1992). Analysis and reexamination of such positions is brough forward. Mrs. Minnie has gone beyond society’s expectations and killed her husband. She has challenged what everybody else expects out of a woman. Her neighbors Mrs. Peter and Hale put together the facts of the murder. As the play proceeds, it becomes obvious that the death of Mr. Wright is not its theme, but rather the roles and the issue of subordination of women (Bigsby, 1982).
The men are in the house to investigate the cause of Mr. Wrights’ death while the women are anxious about the getting a few items to Mrs. Wright who is at the jail. This clearly brings out the affairs of men and the things women are concerned over. Both the men and women notice that the kitchen is untidy, but they see this from different point of view. The men think that the mess is a result of negligence of Mrs. Minnie. They believe that Mrs. Minnie does not take her duties as the homemaker seriously. Mr. George Henderson complains that the dirty towels are a result of Mrs. Minnie not being a good home keeper. To this comment, Mrs. Hale responds that there is much work to be done on the farm. in addition to this she states that men’s hands are never as clean as they ought to be. The men cannot notice this since their only concern is there work, they cannot think beyond their work (Glaspell, 2003). When the men realize that Mrs. Minnie is concerned over her jars of preserves, they are amused. They believe that she should be more concerned over being tried for murder. To them, items like jars are insignificant and they say that women are normally worried about truffles. The women view this differently; they know that the broken jars represent toiling over a hot stove.
The men are engrossed in logical evidence in their attempt to solve the riddle of Mrs. Wright’s death. They observe the tangible evidence in the crime scene. They thoroughly search the house and the barn for any evidence that can be used against Mrs. Wright. The evidence they collect seems inappropriate and their efforts are futile. On the other hand, the women who are just in the kitchen find a number of evidence, which can incriminate Mrs. Wright. They are confined in the kitchen as the men come in and leave as they wish. This scenario illustrates the life that Mrs. Minnie had lived; she had stayed at home, as Mr. Wright came in and went back to town (Waterman, 1966). Without the intension of solving the case, the women decide to begin to analyze the house. They realize so many things that had remained hidden to the men. The house is not only gloomy but also disorderly. They do not see any signs of happiness in the house. They decide that the cause of this is because Mr. Wright controlled the actions and the thoughts of his wife. The first evidence they come across is the unbaked bread. It had been left to rise but it was not baked probably because Mrs. Wright was so distraught that she forgot. Most likely, she was distressed by a recent incident. They also discovered the blanket, which Mrs. Wright had been quilting. Further observation of the quilt showed that the recently sewn segment was not done carefully compared to the earlier ones. The sudden change in the stitching was just too obvious showing that she was worried about an issue to an extention that she could not stitch neatly. At last, the evidence they obtain is so revealing, the birdcage and the bird itself. The discovery of canary proves that Mr. Wright had killed the only thing that his wife loved thus prompting her to murder him. These trifles proved to be the evidence that she had actually killed Mr. Wright. The women discovered the truth as the men searched in vein for concrete evidence to show to the all- male jury.
The feminist theme is also illustrated in comparing Mrs. Minnie to the dead canary. The canary symbolizes her captivity (Waterman, 1966). Before the marriage, she was happy, sweet and pretty. she even used to sing in choir. After their wedding, she suddenly changed. The abusive husband denied her individuality, drained life out of her the same way he strangled the bird. The broken birdcage represents Mrs. Minnie’s release from confinement. She can now revenge for the many years of abuse. She obtains dignity and life after killing her husband.
The contrast between the two sexes is illustrated in the play. It demonstrates the feminist theme. Since the women posses the evidence, they have power to condemn the culprit or set her free. The women have collected the evidence while in the kitchen, which now represent a place that can give them ultimate empowerment. A place, which traditionally reflected the role of a woman as a nurturer, is the stage that gives them the secrets that empower them. The bird and the birdcage is used metaphorically to represent the role of women in a male dominated society.