The theme of loyalty can be found in Susan Glaspel’s Trifles. This loyalty is expressed between a group of women being oppressed in an extremely patriarchal society. This play begins with the a group of people trying to figure out who murdered the off-stage character John Wright, with the main suspect being his wife. As the men rummage through the house trying to find evidence, they leave the women to gather items for Mrs. Wright. The men think that Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters are simply dealing with their small, unimportant issues, also known as trifles, when in all reality they are solving the case. With this said, as the women begin to solve the case, their loyalty to Mrs. Wright is shown in their acts to cover up the many clues that the men don’t seem to be concerned with. Just one case where the defiance towards this Patriarchal society these women are forced to live in.
As the scene begins, there are many examples where the men make it clear that they should not be bothered with the small “things” that women waste their time with. When they first begin to look around, they enter the kitchen. Before they sit around and criticized Mrs. Wright’s shortcomings as a wife, they begin to belittle the things in the kitchen, deeming them as unimportant in their investigation. The Sheriff himself says, “Nothing here but kitchen things” (983). Here he clearly states the unimportance of this place that has been so important in a woman’s life at this time. Once again, another gentleman Hale, begins to put down the things that many women associated themselves with, in this case focusing on Mrs. Wright’s fruit preserves. He goes on and says, “Well, women are used to worrying over trifles” (983). As these comments keep coming throughout the play, the women, more specifically Mrs. Hale, begin to stand against the men in a very passive and secretive way. As they rummage through Mrs. Wright’s things, they begin to unveil the true story, while the men are more concerned with what they consider problems that are more important. As the men continue to criticize, Mrs. Hale is still yet to completely back down, while also allowing her defiance to go under the radar. The men begin to discuss how dirty the towels were in the kitchen and assume Mrs. Wright as unfit. Immediately, Mrs. Hale answers with “Those towels get dirty awful quick. Men’s hands aren’t always as clean as they may be” (983). Right here is where the reader can tell that she is a little upset with the men criticing a woman’s kitchen, and she begins to stand up for Mrs. Wright immediately. She is well aware of the daunting tasks expected of a farmer’s wife while the Sheriff’s wife, Mrs. Peters is completely unaware and just responds with the inclination that these men are just doing their job and that it is okay for them to criticize Mrs. Wright.
There are many different clues that are tampered with throughout the novel. I wonder myself if the men were even capable of understanding that these things were clues, because these are things that are so unimportant and easy to look over for them. Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters show a concern for this so when they run into these clues, they make the brave choice to cover them up. Their trifles give them clues to the murder while the men simply just snoop around. When they begin to rummage through her sewing kit, they come across a quilt that she had been working on. With stitches so perfect than sudden chaos, one would know that she had become mentally unstable and this could point to her murder. When seeing this, loyal Mrs. Hale begins to rip out the stitches and fix it immediately. Mrs. Peters is very uneasy about Mrs. Hale touching things, but she went along and did it anyways. Mrs. Hale stands by Mrs. Wright’s side despite the fact that every other character would rather ring her neck and shove her in the cell without thinking twice.
As they continue to rummage for scissors, they notice an empty bird-cage. This makes them begin to wonder where the bird could be. Shockingly, right before their eyes is a dead canary with its neck snapped inside Mrs. Wright’s sewing box. They now had her motive. “But, Mrs. Peters–look at it! Its neck! Look at its neck! It’s all–other side to” (988). Their shock overcomes them as footsteps are heard and instead of bringing it to their husband’s attention, they simply tuck the box away, still unable to understand what they have just seen.
As you can see, these women are so closely related, yet so different. They understand each other’s individual struggles that are all driven be common sources. The patriarchal society in which they are forced to live in helps them understand each other and have this loyalty that can not be broken. Mrs. Hale says it herself, “We live close together and we live far apart. We go through the same things–it’s all just a different kind of the same thing” (989). Right with that passage it shows the strong loyalty and understanding of these women.