Trifles by Susan Glaspell: An Investigation of The Murder of John Wright

The short story Trifles written by Susan Glaspell is a story regarding the investigation of the murder of John Wright by his wife, Mrs. Wright. Mrs. Hale is the wife of Mr. Hale, one of the men investigating the murder, and the neighbor of the Wrights. While the men investigate around the farmhouse looking for clues to prove Mrs. Wright was guilty, Mrs. Hale is downstairs with Mrs. Peters discovering their own evidence in the mishaps of Mrs. Wrights cleaning and sewing.

Mrs. Hale begins to reminisce on how cheerful and full of life Mrs.

Wright was prior to her marriage. She regrets not visiting with Mrs. Wright throughout the years especially since they were neighbors. Upon finding the unfinished quilt and the empty bird cage, they discover a dead canary with a strangled neck, the same way Mr. Wright’s neck was strangled. She begins to see the reasoning for Mrs. Wright murdering her husband. She concludes that Mrs. Wright was unhappy with her marriage and possibly neglected.

She decides to keep this information between her and Mrs. Peters instead of informing the men of their findings. Why would Mrs.

Hale’s change in view of Mrs. Wright make her justify the reasoning behind why she murdered her husband? Maslows Hierarchy of Needs is a theory developed by Abraham Maslow to understand human motivation to fulfill our peak potential. It is described as a model which is divided into our basic needs (physiology, safety, love and esteem) and our growth needs (cognitive, aesthetic, and self-actualization.

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) (McLeod, 2007) Saul McLeod believes that one must satisfy lower level basic needs before progressing to meet higher level growth needs. (McLeod, 2007) Mrs.

Hales regresses from the cognitive need down to the love and belonging need as she begins to see Mrs. Wright as the friend whom she used to have and because of this she believes she was in an unhappy and neglected marriage, which has driven her to murder her husband. After entering the Wright house, which is now a crime scene for the murder of Mr. Wright, Mrs. Hale is left alone downstairs with Mrs. Peters while the men go upstairs to find evidence to prove that Mrs. Wright murdered her husband. Upon engaging in conversation Mrs. Hale’s cognitive need becomes apparent when they inspect the knitting on Mrs.

Wrights quilt. Mrs. Hales states “Mrs. Peters, look at this one. Here, this is the one she was working on, and look at the sewing! All the rest of it has been so nice and even. And look at this! It’s all over the place! Why, it looks as if she didn’t know what she was about. ”(Glaspell, 666). Mrs. Hale suspects that something could have caused the negligence of her stitching, She asks Mrs. Peters “What do you supposed she was so nervous about? ” (Glaspell, 666) She seemed intrigued, insinuating there may have been a reason which drove her to murder her husband. Mrs.

Hale is staggering on the cognitive level which is preventing her from progressing on to the next level of aesthetic because she is not concerned with her own needs to express herself in a pleasing way, But to express Mrs. Wright in a more pleasing way and not as some horrific murderer. Mrs. Hale goes on to explain to Mrs. Peters; “I wish you’d seen Minnie Foster when she wore a white dress with blue ribbons and stood up there in the choir and sang. ” (Glaspell, 670) She wants Mrs. Peters to view Mrs. Wright in the positive way that she was prior to her failed marriage.

This actually shows her regression down to the love and belonging level. Towards the end of the play she realizes that she has been so busy in her life that she had neglected her friend in a time of need. She regrets not visiting her, stating that “I wish I’d come over here once in a while! That was a crime! That was a crime! Who’s going to punish that? ” (Glaspell, 670) She feels guilty for not realizing that Mrs. Wright needed help. She tells Mrs. Peters “I might have known she needed help! I know how things can be-for women. I tell you, it’s queer, Mrs.

Peters. We live so close together and we live far apart. ” (Glaspell, 670) Mrs. Hale wishes she had been a better friend to Mrs. Wright and by doing that feels that could have helped prevent the murder from even happening. Maslows Law is a good theory to represent the understanding of Mrs. Hale, it signifies the importance of better understanding why she acted as she did. We use Maslows Law of Hierarchy Needs to better understand what motivates us to reach our full potential. According to McLeod, “progress is often disrupted by failure to meet lower level needs. (McLeod, 2007) Because Mrs. Hale had begun to care for her old friend, after trying to figure out what caused her to become a murder, She had regressed back down to the love and belonging level, Thus preventing her from progressing to the aesthetic level. WORKS CITED: McLeod, S. A. (2007). Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Glaspell, Susan. “Trifles. ” Backpack Literature An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, Drama, and Writing Fourth Edition. Ed. X. J. Kennedy and Dana Gioia. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Education, Inc. , 2012. 659-671. Print.

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Trifles by Susan Glaspell: An Investigation of The Murder of John Wright. (2016, Nov 11). Retrieved from

Trifles by Susan Glaspell: An Investigation of The Murder of John Wright
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