Trifles Summary

Trifles Summary

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The opening scene of the one-act play, “Trifles” by Susan Glaspell not only introduces the scene, which remains more or less constant throughout the play, but also immediately presents the main characters in “Trifles” who are, the young and arrogant County Attorney named George Henderson, Henry Peters who is the sheriff along with his wife, as well as neighbors Mr. and Mrs. Hale.

At this point in “Trifles” by Susan Glaspell, the group stands in the disheveled kitchen of John and Millie Wright with the men looking around and the women looking nervous. They gather around a fire as the sheriff tells Mr. Hale, a neighbor farmer, to tell the County Attorney Mr. Henderson what he witnessed the day before when he came to ask John Wright if he wanted to split the cost of a phone line (called a party telephone in the play, which is set around the early 1900s). When he knocked at the door without answer, he grew more persistent until he thought he heard Mrs. Wright telling him to come inside. He finds her rocking in her chair, pleating an apron and looking “queer” almost “as if she didn’t know what she was going to do next. And kind of done up.” Mr. Hale says he asked to see her husband and she began to laugh and told him he was dead upstairs and kept rocking in her chair. When asked what he died of she said, “He died of a rope around his neck” without any special emphasis.

At this point in Hale’s statement as a witness, the County Attorney tells him they should go upstairs so he could point to what he was talking about. Hale, however, continues with his story, saying that he went up and thought for a moment about taking off the rope (at which point he twitches) and decides to leave it on. He goes down to Mrs. Wright and asks her what happened. She says she doesn’t know and that she didn’t wake up if someone put a rope around his neck. Hale, disturbed, left and sought a telephone to call the coroner. Hale leaves Mrs. Wright who still seems to be in a strange state until people arrive, including a doctor. The County Attorney stops him and suggests the men go look around.

As the search party is formed and this group of main characters in “Trifles” agree what needs to be done, they begin in the kitchen and the men, especially the Sheriff and Attorney, remark on what a bad housekeeper Mrs. Wright was. This makes the two women pull closer together and they examine her preserves and remark on how upset she’d be if the jars broke. The men find this funny and remark that “women are used to worrying over trifles” and the women huddle closer still and the men continue to condescendingly ask what they would do without women.