Trifles

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Mrs. Hale Character Analysis

The wife of the neighboring farmer. Mrs. Hale is wracked by guilt at not having visited Minnie Wright more often to support her through the difficulties of living with her unkind husband. She leads Mrs. Peters in their decision to conceal the evidence that would undoubtedly convict Minnie Wright of her crime.

Mrs. Hale Quotes in Trifles

The Trifles quotes below are all either spoken by Mrs. Hale or refer to Mrs. Hale. 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. 

“But he was a hard man, Mrs. Peters. Just to pass the time of day with him—[Shivers] Like a raw wind that gets to the bone.”

Related Characters: Mrs. Hale (speaker), Mrs. Peters, John Wright
Page Number: 16
Explanation and Analysis:

Mrs. Hale is critical of John Wright's character, which begins to shift the reader's opinion of the couple at the heart of this play. One has been killed and the other accused of murder. Yet, what is the true crime? One of John Wright's "crimes" was his coldness and harshness to his wife. Mrs. Hale cannot imagine being married to this man, and even imagining passing the time of day with him makes her shiver. This statement shows that John Wright was not kind, and he must have been very difficult to live with. What did Minnie Wright experience while cooped up in her isolated house with him? The metaphorical language of this passage emotionally conveys John Wright's unkindness and shares the sensation of being around him with the reader or audience. To be near him was like being in a "raw wind that gets to the bone." We can understand and relate to this unpleasant sensation, and Mrs. Hale's comment subtly turns the reader or audience against John Wright.

This comment also shows another important shift, as Mrs. Hale starts to identify with Minnie Wright and relate to her experiences as a suffering wife. Mrs. Hale is already aligning herself with the other woman, and entering an emotional state in which she will want to defend Minnie against the cruel treatment of men. Her sympathy is the initial source of her willingness to lie to protect Minnie. She sees that John Wright is not wholly innocent, but his personality and abuses are not the concern of the legal system. 

“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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Mrs. Hale Character Timeline in Trifles

The timeline below shows where the character Mrs. Hale 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 neighboring farmer Lewis Hale. The wives of two of the men, Mrs. Peters and Mrs. Hale, both of whom appear disturbed and fearful, follow the men inside. (full context)
Social Oppression of Women Theme Icon
The Blindness of Men Theme Icon
Gender Allegiance vs. Legal Duty Theme Icon
...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 of work to be done to keep a... (full context)
Gender Allegiance vs. Legal Duty Theme Icon
...says yes, but that he’d like to see what she’s taking. The men go upstairs. Mrs. Hale is upset over the men coming into Minnie’s space and accusing her of being a... (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 that her... (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... (full context)
Social Oppression of Women Theme Icon
The Blindness of Men Theme Icon
Gender Allegiance vs. Legal Duty Theme Icon
...Wright was in the process of making. The men reenter and, overhearing Mrs. Peters and Mrs. Hale discussing the quilt, laugh at the women for wondering about whether Minnie was planning to... (full context)
Social Oppression of Women Theme Icon
...the clothes they’re taking to the jail and discovers an empty birdcage in a cupboard. Mrs. Hale doesn’t know whether Minnie had a bird, but remembers that she used to sing very... (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.... (full context)
Social Oppression of Women Theme Icon
Mrs. Peters did 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).... (full context)
Gender Allegiance vs. Legal Duty Theme Icon
...and the women realize that someone must have wrung its neck. The men return and Mrs. Hale hides the box containing the dead bird under the quilt. George Henderson asks if they’ve... (full context)
Gender Allegiance vs. Legal Duty Theme Icon
...to it before her eyes. She says she would have hurt him if she could. Mrs. Hale says she knows John Wright must have killed the dead bird. Mrs. Peters, growing emotional,... (full context)
Gender Allegiance vs. Legal Duty Theme Icon
Justice Theme Icon
Mrs. Peters comes to her senses and reminds Mrs. Hale that, “the law has got to punish crime.” Mrs. Hale cries out in response that... (full context)
Gender Allegiance vs. Legal Duty Theme Icon
Justice Theme Icon
...to hide the box with the dead bird in her too small bag and then Mrs. Hale conceals it in her pocket. The attorney returns and jokingly acknowledges that at least they... (full context)