Trifles might be described as a kind of murder mystery. Yet a murder mystery usually ends with the criminal being brought to justice, and instead in this murder mystery it is the idea of justice itself that is complicated. In discovering the dead bird, Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters find evidence that serves as a motive for Minnie’s killing of her husband but also, from their viewpoint, somewhat justifies Minnie Wright’s act of murder. They understand that Minnie’s act was not just a murder, but an escape. That her husband’s cruel of strangling her pet bird was not the sole reason she murdered him, but rather that the act was the culmination of the social oppression and socially sanctioned loneliness that has essentially strangled Minnie herself. And they see this because they themselves have faced the same prejudice and mistreatment, as when Mrs. Hale says, “we all go through the same things—it’s all just a different kind of the same thing.”
Mrs. Hale also accuses herself of the crime of not having supported her neighbor, asking, “who’s going to punish that?” In this moment when Mrs. Hale turns the blame on herself, the play also highlights all of the men who aren’t blaming themselves, and how many of the men’s crimes of varying magnitude will go not only unpunished but unnoticed by the male-controlled powers that be. Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters hide the evidence of Minnie’s act because the legal system cannot fairly punish, account for, or even comprehend the vast array of crimes that have been committed against women in general and Minnie in particular.
Justice Quotes in Trifles
“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.”
“Mr. Henderson said coming out that what was needed for the case was a motive; something to show anger, or—sudden feeling.”
“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.”
“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?”