In Trifles by Susan Glaspell, two women, Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peterson, contemplate whether or not to surrender evidence supports the idea that their neighbor, Minnie Foster, had killed her husband. In this one act play, there is some controversy whether or not it is right or wrong that Minnie kills her husband due to the fact that her husband killed her bird. However, the interesting aspect to this play is how the women do not focus on the justification of murder itself, but rather how much pain was Minnie in when she decided to kill her husband and whether or not her actions are understandable.
After learning that the bird was dead, Mrs. Peterson discusses her own pain when she learned that her kitten was killed as a child. She states:
If they hadn’t held me back I would have—(catches herself, looks upstairs where steps are heard, falters weakly)—hurt him.
When discussing her own emotional response to her deceased pet, Mrs. Peterson empathizes with the pain of Minnie. She understands how a person could hurt someone after learning that something they loved and deeply valued is dead.
Mrs. Hale, on the other hand, believes that Minnie was in pain because she had no children. She imagines what life would have been to suddenly have life and excitement around, only for it to be taken away.
MRS HALE: (her own feeling not interrupted) If there’d been years and years of nothing, then a bird to sing to you, it would be awful—still, after the bird was still.
What is morally right and wrong isn’t important to the women; what matters is if Minnie’s actions were understandable and relatable. After being able to imagine Minnie’s deep suffering after losing something she cherished, both of these women decide to protect Minnie. In fact, they do not even want to tell her that her fruit is gone. This is not a story about whether or not a man should be killed for killing a bird. This is a story that asks how much happiness was taken away from Minnie after her bird died.
Source: Trifles (Susan Glaspell)