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Literary Analysis of Trifles by Susan Glaspell

Literary Analysis of Trifles by Susan Glaspell

Character Analysis

            In the play Trifles by Susan Glaspell, Mrs. Hale is one of the main characters. Just like Minnie Wright, Mrs. Hale is also wife of a farmer and has lived a fairly Spartan lifestyle in the farmlands.  The author does not provide her real name nor does she offer a full physical description of the character. However, through her dialogue and behavior throughout the play, the audience comes to understand the character of Mrs. Hale. She is more opinionated that Minnie Wright and she is actually the one who locates and hides most of the audience thereby displaying great strength, character, and loyalty to Mrs. Wright. As a character, the thing that Mrs. Hale wants the most is to see that women are accorded the same rights as men. She desires for a time when women will be on a level-playing field with men and does not take the sexism at the time lying down. She fiercely goes up against men, like when Mr. Anderson complained about Mrs. Wright’s housekeeping, she defends her by saying “farmers’ wives have their hands full” (Glaspell, 1916). The conflict that she encounters is the dilemma between pursuing justice or the rights of women in a society that is male-dominated. She attempts to achieve this by defending Minnie Wright and helping her hide the evidence. The Attorney and others investigating the murder stand in her way but she successfully manages to get away with it by the end of the play.

Symbol Analysis

            One of the most important symbols within the play is the birdcage. The bird is a representation of Mrs. Wright who used to be known to the world and live a good life before getting married to a husband who was a jerk. “MRS. HALE: She used to wear pretty clothes and be lively, when she was Minnie Foster, one of the town girls singing in the choir. But that—oh, that was thirty years ago” (Glaspell, 1916). She wore pretty clothes like the bird’s pretty feathers, and was lively and sang in a choir like the songbird chirped bird. If she is the bird, then the cage is a clear representation of her stifling marriage that turned her into a depressed woman. The Birdcage, therefore, represents how Minnie Wright was trapped in her marriage and she could not do anything about it. The lock represents how Mr. Wright locked her up from society while the broken cage door portrays the broken cage marriage which eventually made Mrs. Wright a free woman.

Theme Analysis

            One of the most glaring themes in the play Trifles by Susan Glaspell is the theme of women and feminism. This theme is so domineering that the entire play can be regarded as a work of feminist literature. The entire play is a depiction of the life of a woman who has been oppressed, suppressed, and subjugated by a patriarchal and patronizing husband. By doing this, the play clearly portrays a period in time within the United States of America where women were generally ignored, belittled, and neglected by men. As Mrs. Hale remarks well, women are used to worrying over trifles” (Glaspell, 1916) while the Sherriff assumes that “kitchen things” (Glaspell, 2016) are insignificant. As a result of the women getting tired of being ignored and neglected, they end up hiding evidence that could have convicted one of them for murdering her husband. The theme allows the author to effectively and sufficiently dramatize the hypocrisy and widespread discrimination that is commonplace in a male-dominated society while at the same time depicting the dangers for women who fall victim of such discriminations and succumb to such hierarchies.


Glaspell, S. (1916). Trifles. In X.J. Kennedy and D. Gioia (Eds). The Literature Collection: An E-text [VitalSource digital version]. (pp. 844-46). Boston, MA: Pearson Education Inc.



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