Trifles

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Minnie Wright Character Analysis

The wife of the murdered John Wright, and his killer. Mrs. Hale remembers Minnie for her youthful innocence and happiness before she was married (when she was Minnie Foster). Back then, she sang joyfully in the local choir. But in marriage Minnie became timid, sad, and isolated. (It is interested that even Minnie’s name connects her to a sense of smallness and powerlessness: “mini”.) Minnie killed her husband by strangling him in retribution for his final cruelness of killing her pet bird, the only being that provided happiness and company for her in the loneliness of her home and the patriarchal society that isolated her (and all women).

Minnie Wright Quotes in Trifles

The Trifles quotes below are all either spoken by Minnie Wright or refer to Minnie Wright . For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Social Oppression of Women Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Baker's Plays edition of Trifles published in 1951.
Trifles Quotes

“Well, women are used to worrying over trifles.”

Related Characters: Lewis Hale (speaker), Mrs. Peters, Mrs. Hale, Minnie Wright
Related Symbols: Trifles, Canning Jars of Fruit
Page Number: 9
Explanation and Analysis:

George Henderson, the county attorney, accompanies Mr. Hale and Mr. Peters, and their wives, to the home of a man who was recently killed. The murdered man's wife, Mrs. Wright, has been taken into custody, and the men search the home for any evidence. They find that Mrs. Wright's hard labor of canning fruit has been ruined, as the jars have frozen and exploded in the cold weather. The women's sympathy for Mrs. Wright's ruined project draws scorn from the men. Mr. Hale dismisses their concern by stating that women "are used to worrying over trifles." This statement reveals both the attitudes of the men toward women and the social position women hold in this play. 

First, the men all think of women, and the concerns of women, as inferior to men and the concerns of men ("trifles" as compared to presumably important issues). Second, the domain of women is the domestic sphere. Men fill the roles of investigators and intellects, while women are not expected to understand or help with the search for evidence against Mrs. Wright. Because the women have been delegated lesser roles and responsibilities, the men see "women's things" (anything related to the household) as trifles. This perspective ultimately causes these men to overlook the very evidence they need, because they immediately discount the importance of women's things and concerns. As a whole, the play shows the error in this thinking. Women's concerns, emotional abuse, and social oppression are at the heart of this story, and are not trivial at all.

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“They say it was such a—funny way to kill a man, rigging it all up like that.”
“That’s just what Mr. Hale said. There was a gun in the house. He says that’s what he can’t understand.”

Related Characters: Mrs. Peters (speaker), Mrs. Hale (speaker), Lewis Hale, John Wright, Minnie Wright
Page Number: 13
Explanation and Analysis:

Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters discuss the murder of John Wright while alone in the kitchen. What is notable about this murder is the means used to kill Mr. Wright, who was strangled by a rope around the neck. This brutal method was used even though a gun—which would certainly have been quicker and more effective—was available in the house. This passage is an example of foreshadowing, as the women discuss the method of murder early in the play, emphasizing that this question will be key in understanding of the mystery of Mr. Wright's death. The men state that they're concerned with finding evidence that reveals a motive for killing John Wright, and for killing him in this unexpected way. 

This passage also subtly shows the gender roles for men and women expected by this society. The women rely on any information provided by their husbands, and they believe in and trust this information (as they have no other choice). Mrs. Hale quotes her husband with the understanding that this adds authority to her words. This difference in power--men control information--is examined throughout this play. Later on, however, Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters withhold the information they have--the evidence they uncover gives them power and control over the situation. This is a rare experience for these woman, who are used to accepting their husbands' words as unquestionable facts. 

“Mr. Henderson said coming out that what was needed for the case was a motive; something to show anger, or—sudden feeling.”

Related Characters: Mrs. Peters (speaker), George Henderson, John Wright, Minnie Wright
Page Number: 13
Explanation and Analysis:

Here Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters foreshadow the discovery of evidence showing a motive for Mr. Wright's killing. A motive is assumed to be evidence of "anger" or "sudden feeling," which supposes that Mr. Wright was killed out of passion rather than through a cold-blooded plot. George Henderson may be indicating that he already suspects Mrs. Wright, assuming that a woman might have cause to be angry at her husband, but not assuming that a woman would kill with planning and forethought. Women are pigeonholed as creatures of instinct and emotion, rather than rational beings. 

The idea of motive is an important one in a murder trial. There may be other evidence against Mrs. Wright, but an understanding of her motive would strengthen the case against her. Because the reader/audience understands this from early on in the play, it is clear that the stakes are high when Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters uncover just this sort of evidence. 

This passage relies on a literal understanding of the word "justice": justice brought about through the legal system, in which wrong-doers are punished and innocents are set free. The legal system requires evidence of the crime and the identity of the perpetrator, such as a motive for killing. This play questions whether this is the best interpretation of justice, however. Is there always evidence for crimes that have been committed? Is the legal system capable of punishing all types of wrong-doing? This play provides counter-examples. 

“Oh, 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?”

Related Characters: Mrs. Hale (speaker), Minnie Wright
Page Number: 19
Explanation and Analysis:

Mrs. Hale's sympathy for Minnie Wright shifts into personal guilt as she comes to understands how much the other woman must have suffered alone at her house without the support of friends. She knows that if Minnie Wright had had the support of other women--to complain to, to talk with, to help her feel that she wasn't suffering alone at the hands of her husband--she might not currently be a murder suspect. Mrs. Hale could not have solved the larger problem of inequality between the genders, nor the specific problem of Mrs. Wright suffering at the hands of her husband, but she could have emotionally supported Minnie Wright. 

Mrs. Hale refers to her own actions as a "crime," and the term is repeated for emphasis in this passage. The legal system, crime, and evidence are repeatedly discussed in Trifles, although they are mostly used by the male characters to refer, in a limited way, to the murder of Mr. Wright and the prosecution of his murderer. Mrs. Hale shifts the definition of crime here, however. She sees her oversight as a crime, and she sees Minnie's isolation as a crime. This reveals that many things in the world could be considered crimes that are beyond the regulation of the legal system. One reason for this is that men dominate the legal system. Only men will decide Minnie Wright's fate through a trial, and consideration of crimes such as Minnie's isolation won't occur to these men or be relevant in Minnie's case. Justice, in Mrs. Hale's eyes, should be more broadly applied. 

“We all go through the same things—it’s all just a different kind of the same thing.”

Related Characters: Mrs. Hale (speaker), Mrs. Peters, Minnie Wright
Page Number: 20
Explanation and Analysis:

Mrs. Hale points out that all women have suffered isolation, mistreatment, and unhappiness because of the structure of a society that treats them as inferior to men. She speaks here in the first person plural, which includes herself and Mrs. Peters in a group with Minnie Wright. The context further implies that she uses "we" to refer to all women. She acknowledges that there are differences in the way women are treated from town to town and household to household, but these treatments are fundamentally the same thing. These "same things" are the products of oppression. In one case, a woman may be physically abused. In another case, a woman may be refused a job over a male candidate. In a third case, a woman may give up on friendship because her husband expects her to prioritize caring for his household over everything else. These are all "different kinds of the same thing" because they have the same cause: social oppression of a single group of people--women. 

This sentence is a key turning point in the play, because it solidifies Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters's "us" versus "them" thinking. These two women see their identities as women as being more important than their identities as citizens or wives. They know that women everywhere are experiencing the same mistreatment and suffering, and this outweighs their timidity and motivates them to protect Minnie Wright.

“Well, Henry, at least we found out that she was not going to quilt it. She was going to—what is it you call it, ladies?”
“We call it—knot it, Mr. Henderson.”

Related Characters: George Henderson (speaker), Mrs. Hale (speaker), Minnie Wright
Related Symbols: The Quilt
Page Number: 21
Explanation and Analysis:

During this loaded resolution to the play, Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters have concealed the dead bird that shows Minnie's Wright's motive for killing her husband. The quilt, too, shows evidence of her emotional distress in its poor stitching. The women have already discussed whether Minnie was planning to sew the quilt or knot the quilt to complete it. These two techniques take on metaphorical resonance because to "knot it" sounds like the tying of ropes, and Mr. Wright was strangled with a rope. In a subtle way, the women are revealing the truth of what happened and their knowledge of it by saying Minnie Wright was planning to "knot it." In other words, they know she killed her husband with a rope around his neck. 

Notably, this question and answer are only metaphorical in the minds of the women, and George Henderson asks the question in complete naïveté. He is again mocking the women for their concern with something as trivial as the making of a quilt when there is a murder mystery to be solved. Yet it is ironic that the women have solved the mystery by paying attention to such "trifles." The question Henderson asks is exactly the right one, and he asks it of the people with the most information, but he asks it with what the reader can imagine to be a mocking and sarcastic tone. He doesn't care about Minnie Wright's quilting process--but he should. The men have the answer to the murder mystery at their fingertips, but overlook it because women's concerns seem unimportant to them. 

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Minnie Wright Character Timeline in Trifles

The timeline below shows where the character Minnie Wright appears in Trifles. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Trifles
Social Oppression of Women Theme Icon
Gender Allegiance vs. Legal Duty Theme Icon
The play opens on the scene of John and Minnie Wright’s abandoned farmhouse. The kitchen is in disarray with unwashed dishes, a loaf of uncooked... (full context)
Social Oppression of Women Theme Icon
Justice Theme Icon
Mr. Hale tells the story of arriving at the Wrights’ home the previous day. He had been hoping to convince John Wright to invest in... (full context)
Social Oppression of Women Theme Icon
Justice Theme Icon
...cautioned him to not touch anything and to preserve any evidence. Before leaving, he questioned Minnie Wright about who killed her husband. She said that despite having been sleeping in the... (full context)
Social Oppression of Women Theme Icon
The Blindness of Men Theme Icon
...unimportant, as being only kitchen things. The county attorney discovers that the mess comes from Minnie’s canning jars of fruit, which have exploded. Mrs. Peters says that she knew Minnie was... (full context)
Social Oppression of Women Theme Icon
The Blindness of Men Theme Icon
Gender Allegiance vs. Legal Duty Theme Icon
...looking over the mess in the kitchen and noticing in particular the dirty towel, says Minnie seems to be a poor housekeeper. Mrs. Hale stiffly points out that there’s a lot... (full context)
Gender Allegiance vs. Legal Duty Theme Icon
...Peters asks George Henderson if his wife can collect a few items to bring to Minnie Wright in jail and the attorney says yes, but that he’d like to see what... (full context)
Social Oppression of Women Theme Icon
The Blindness of Men Theme Icon
Gender Allegiance vs. Legal Duty Theme Icon
The women collect some clothes for Minnie. Mrs. Hale recognizes in the clothing that Minnie had very little money for herself and... (full context)
Gender Allegiance vs. Legal Duty Theme Icon
Justice Theme Icon
Abruptly, Mrs. Hale asks Mrs. Peters if she thinks that Minnie killed her husband. Mrs. Hale says she doesn’t think that she did. Mrs. Peters whispers... (full context)
Social Oppression of Women Theme Icon
The Blindness of Men Theme Icon
Gender Allegiance vs. Legal Duty Theme Icon
The women discover a quilt that Minnie Wright was in the process of making. The men reenter and, overhearing Mrs. Peters and... (full context)
Social Oppression of Women Theme Icon
Gender Allegiance vs. Legal Duty Theme Icon
Mrs. Hale expresses her frustration with herself for not visiting Minnie more often in her lonely home. She says she stayed away because she didn’t like... (full context)
Social Oppression of Women Theme Icon
...not grow up in the neighborhood and so Mrs. Hale starts to tell her about Minnie as a girl (back when she was Minnie Foster). She says that Minnie Foster was... (full context)
Gender Allegiance vs. Legal Duty Theme Icon
Justice Theme Icon
...got to punish crime.” Mrs. Hale cries out in response that her failure to visit Minnie and her lack of support for the isolated girl was a crime, and “who’s going... (full context)
Social Oppression of Women Theme Icon
The Blindness of Men Theme Icon
Gender Allegiance vs. Legal Duty Theme Icon
...Mr. Peters asks if he wants to look over what Mrs. Peters is taking to Minnie in jail, but the attorney says that she’s trustworthy because, after all, “a sheriff’s wife... (full context)
Gender Allegiance vs. Legal Duty Theme Icon
Justice Theme Icon
...in her pocket. The attorney returns and jokingly acknowledges that at least they found out Minnie wasn’t going to finish her quilt by quilting it. He appeals to the ladies for... (full context)