Topics/Themes Reading Questions Home


Recurring Topics:

* Describe marriage for women in this play. Compare these female characters to other female characters of this term who are struggling to overcome stereotypical roles cast for women.

* Are there elements of realism in this play?

* What other feminist topics from previous works reemerge in Trifles?

* Click on this interactive web page created by student of the U. of Florida; it hyperlinks key words from the play so that you can read and learn context at the same time. Click here.

Reading Questions(1*):

1) What key events have occurred before the play begins? Why do you suppose these events are not presented in the play itself?


2) What are the "trifles" to which the title refers? How do these "trifles" advance the play's plot?


3) Glaspell's short story version of Trifles is called "A Jury of Her Peers." Who are Mrs. Wright's peers? What do you suppose the verdict would be if she were tried for her crimes in 1916, when only men were permitted to serve on juries? If the trial were held today, do you think the jury might reach a different verdict?


4) Trifles is a relatively slow-moving, "talky" play, with very little physical action. Is this a weakness of the play, or is the slow development consistent with the effect Glaspell is trying to achieve? Explain.


5) How does each of the following events advance the play's action: the men's departure from the kitchen, the discovery of the quilt pieces, the discovery of the dead bird?


6) What assumptions about women do the male characters make? In what ways do the female characters conform to or depart from these assumptions?


7) In what sense is the process of making a quilt an appropriate metaphor for the plot of Trifles?


Possible Journal Topic: Do you think Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters do the right thing by concealing evidence?

Critical Perspective: Gary A. Richardson writes in American Drama from the Colonial Period through World War I that in Trifles, Glaspell "developed a new structure for her action...":

While action in the traditional sense is minimal, Glaspell is nevertheless able to rivet attention on the two women, wed the audience to their perspective, and make a compelling case for the fairness of their actions. Existing on the margins of their society, Mrs. Peters and Mrs. Hale become emotional surrogates for the jailed Minnie Wright, effectively exonerating her action as "justifiable homicide."

Trifles is carefully crafted to match Glaspell's subject matter--the action meanders, without a clearly delineated beginning, middle, or end....

Exactly how does Glaspell "rivet attention on" Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters? Do you agree that the play's action "meanders, without a clearly delineated beginning, middle, and end? If so, do you too see this "meandering" as appropriate for Glaspell's subject matter?

1* The above material was copied and gleaned from Literature: Reading, Reacting, Writing, Compact Fourth Edition. Editors Laurie G. Kirszner & Stephen R. Mandell. Hardcourt College Publishers, 2000.