Susan Glaspell’s “Trifles” is an one-act play, centered on the mysterious death of a man, Mr. Wright. His wife is being held in custody for his death, and a group of people go to the home (crime scene) in order to gather evidence to solve the case.Despite their only being five characters in the cast, audience gather so much information as it relates to character.
Characterization came through strongly due to what the characters said, sometimes directly and other times indirectly. Audience gets their first ear full of characterization from Mr. Hale as he speaks about his initial encounter at the scene of the crime. Mr. Hale speaks about how Mrs. Wright was just rocking in her chair when he arrived (that imagery alone is creepy for me as I know the subject of the play). His recall of that moment includes her seeming some what “queer” (the random laughing only adding to the creepy factor). One can only picture a woman who has mentally tapped out, but still has a key to sane city and uses it as she pleases. Depending on the audience perspective, they might already have walls up against Mrs Wright, or not be moved at all.
The moment in which we really learn about The Wrights is during the conversation with Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters. As the wives discuss the incidents at hand, audience learns more an more about the couple and their home. It is discovered that Mr. Wright was not the most sensitive man. He basically sucked the life out of everything in the home (ironically until his life was sucked out of him). Mrs. Hale mentions how the house was not cheerful, and how Mrs, wright no longer sang, or did much of anything; and she blames this on Mr. Wright;s behavior. Audience members who probably had sympathy for Mr. Wright probably lost some of it as this point. they probably would be more empathetic towards Mrs. Wright how is know thought of less a crazy but more confined. Having to live with the tyranny of society and social norms, plus the additional oppression from her husband. Through dialogue we also learn about Mrs. Wright’s hobbies/concerns, Mrs, Wrights possible moment of regret or moment reaching breaking point (nervousness in sewing) and a crucial piece of the puzzle, the canary.
Additionally, the characters themselves disclose indirect information about themselves. The County Attorney and the Sheriff seems to have very patriarchal views of living, and seemingly find women themselves to be a bit ‘trifling’. Mr. Hales seems to have a lot going on in his mind. He is rambler but does it with good intention. The wives come across more rational, but one can see they are affected by the stipulations placed on women at that time. And even Mrs. Wright in her repeated dialogue comes off as a person who is calm and collected despite what is happening around her.
Glaspell used dialogue to her advantage with such a short play, to allow audience to gather so much. Because of the speaking, one can easily say no turned was left unturned. Except, of course, who dunnit…