Understanding Mrs. Wright in Trifles by Susan Glaspell

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When writing, there are many different ways to present the story, such as in organization (chronological and cause-effect for example), point of view (first person, second person, third person, etc.), and other such concepts. The way someone structures their story is important in the understanding of the meaning, the characters, and the actions of characters within the story. “Trifles,” a play written by Susan Glaspell, would closely resemble a point-of-view in third person limited (there is no real narrator, it is the audience that needs to put everything together), as the audience does not know what characters do not know, so as the play continues, where the characters learn new information, so does the audience.

This here is what helps the audience understand the meaning of the play, as well as the reasoning behind actions of the characters. As these characters come across new information and interpretations about Mrs. Wright and her dilemma, so does the audience. The structure helps the audience better understand Mrs. Wright’s characters and her motives behind the murder, as well as why the play ended in the way it did.

The structure of the play is supported through its characters, their actions, and their lines — as a play is mostly dialogue, there has to be emotion presented through their words and actions, as the audience does not have access to their own personal thoughts. To start, the audience first meets Mrs. Wright’s character as told through Mr. Hale, who visited the Wright’s home looking for her husband. Mr. Hale is describing the night he was there to the sheriff and county attorney, as part of a murder case — Mrs. Wright is the main suspect.

The description of Mrs. Wright in this recollection helps the audience grasp an idea of the mood and setting, as well as some insight to her actions. As the play moves forward, the audience learns more of her character and her life, but Mr. Hale’s description is the first experience with her character, which is a rather limited take on her character. When recalling the events from that night, Hale says about Mrs. Wright, “well, [she looked] as if she didn’t know what she was going to do next” (248), when he was interacting with her while she sat in a rocking chair, rocking it back and forth. He also mentions repeatedly that she was pleating her apron, perhaps doing this out of nervousness or stress, as a way to keep her distracted. This would appear out of the ordinary for her character the way Hale described it. Hale would then ask to see her husband, where she would laugh (which is odd), and explain he would not be able to see Mr. Wright “‘cause he’s dead” (248).

The first introduction to Mrs. Wright by Mr. Hale gives only information about her in that moment he saw her that night, in which the audience is as unaware of what is going on as he was. Although it lets the audience know some background to how they found Mr. Wright dead, his neck wrung with a rope, it does not give away much about Mrs. Wright, except for her out of ordinary character. Hale’s interpretation of how she was acting shows her odd behavior, such as when Hale and another man, named Harry, were notifying the authorities of his death (or rather, murder), it was explained that Mrs. Wright seemed unconcerned and unaware of what happened. It was also said by Hale that she “just sat there with her hands held together and looking down” (249), which gave an uncomfortable atmosphere around Mrs. Wright, as her odd behavior was making her the main suspect. These interpretations through Hale made the audience see Mrs. Wright as uncaring and a murderer with no motive — and overall heartless.

In this play are the characters of Mrs. Peters, the wife of the sheriff, and Mrs. Hale. These women had come along to the Wright house to gather some items requested from Mrs. Wright, to occupy her time in the holding cell she was in, while the men were there to gather evidence that she committed the murder. Compared to Hale’s take on Mrs. Wright, these two wives would uncover more about Mrs. Wright and the truth about the murder, which in turn would give the audience a better understanding of her character, as well as be able to sympathize with her. During the interaction between these ladies searching for the requested items, the two women happen upon a bird cage, but as Mrs. Peters “[examines] the cage” (255), they quickly realize the door is broken at the hinges. The wives continue questioning if she actually had a bird, and where it might have gone, predicting a cat might have gotten, or perhaps it got sick.

At one point, Mrs. Hale expresses her regrets that she did not visit more often, as it is a “lonesome place” (255). Despite Mrs. Wright having the company of her husband, she had no children and the place seemed dull and lifeless, as well as secretive. Then, they find the bird — hidden in a small box, the bird was dead, having had its neck wrung, similar to that of Mr. Wright. Through interpretation and shock, the two women realize the truth behind Mr. Wright’s death. It was indeed by the hands of Mrs. Wright. By the looks of it, it was revenge for killing her bird, perhaps the only light in her life as they said the house seemed lonely to begin with.

But the underlying message of this was the abuse she had endured during the marriage; it might have been the bird to set her off, but there was more to it, years of mistreatment and abuse lead her to kill her husband. As it turns out, these women found the evidence to convict her, but rather than show their husbands, they took the box and hid it in one’s coat pocket. All of the signs and interpretations through various characters tie together the ending of the play. Compared to the men, the wives may have been more sympathetic and understanding of Wright’s situation with her husband, which lead them to hide the box with the dead bird. In turn, it would help the audience understand and sympathize as well, as no one truly knows what she went through with her husband.

The structure of the play was supported through the characters and their overall interpretations, which came together to create the content of the story. Each character had different thoughts and reactions, but it would tie together and make it more understandable as to why the play ended in such a way, especially for the women, Mrs. Peters and Mrs. Hale.

Through these characters, the audience was able to better understand, and even sympathize, with the character of Mrs. Wright and the murder of her husband. The way the story was told developed the story in a way the audience had to put things together to understand what was happening — this structure helped create the atmosphere and feelings around the characters and storyline. In structuring the play this way, it would keep the audience intrigued and thoughtful while reading it.


Cite this paper

Understanding Mrs. Wright in Trifles by Susan Glaspell. (2021, Jun 19). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/understanding-mrs-wright-in-trifles-by-susan-glaspell/

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