Monday, March 3, 2008

Trifles (A Play): Questions for Analysis

(The richness and detail of this play may not be apparent on a first read; in addition to the dialogue, pay special attention to action/lack of action and what is not articulated by the characters.)

1. What is a “party telephone”? (553)

2. What are “roller towels”? (555-556)

3. What does “red-up” mean? (558)

4. In context of the play, what does “Well, [Mrs. Wright] looked queer” mean? (553)

5. What kind of man was John Wright?

6. How did he die? (554)

7. What kind of woman is Mrs. Wright?

8. What kind of a woman was Mrs. Wright as a young woman? (557, 560) Why does Mrs. Hale refer to Mrs. Wright as “Minnie Foster”? Who was Minnie Foster? (557)

9. How does Mrs. Wright respond when Mr. Hale asks, “Who did this, Mrs. Wright?” (554)

10. How do the men secure the crime scene? Throughout the play, what kind of clues do they seek? Do they suspect Mr. Wright’s guilt” How so?e

11. What is the women’s role in the crime scene? In what ways do the women manipulate the crime scene? What kind of clues do they find?

12. What is the first instance of evidence tampering (inadvertent), and who does it? (556)

13. What is the men’s attitude toward the women’s activities in and around the crime scene?

14. Who are finding the important clues? How so?

15. When do the women articulate aloud their suspicions? (557)

16. On page 557, Mrs. Hale mentions a gun being found in the Wright house. In relation to Mr. Wright’s death, how is this detail important?

17. What is the playwright’s probable purpose in developing one character (Mrs. Hale) who knows Mrs. Wright well and another (Mrs. Peters) who doesn’t know Mrs. Wright at all?

18. What is the setting? How does this add to the meaning of the play?

19. What is the season? How does this add to the meaning of the play?

20. What are some of the ironic statements made throughout the play?

21. What is the role of the dead bird?

22. What does the broken hinge on the bird cage suggest to the two women? (559)

23. How do the women discover the dead bird? What had happened to the bird and who was the most likely killer? (560-561) How is John Wright’s murder related to the dead bird?

24. After Mrs. Peters says about the bird, “Somebody—wrung—its—neck,” Glaspell offers the following stage direction: Their eyes meet. A look of growing comprehension, of horror (561). In drama, this is known as “the epiphany,” the “aha!” moment. What have the women realized?

25. When does the audience know for sure that the women have purposely contaminated the crime scene and hidden some vital evidence? (561). Why do the women keep mum about the evidence?

26. Why does Mrs. Hale feel so guilty about not visiting Mrs. Wright more often? (559-560). Why does Mrs. Hale feel such tremendous guilt about Mrs. Wright’s current plight? (562)

27. On page 558, Mrs. Hale says this about Mrs. Wright’s unfinished quilt, “I consider if she was goin’ to quilt it or just knot it?” What clue does this statement offer?

28. The sheriff says, “[Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters] wonder if [Mrs. Wright] was going to quilt it or just knot it.” The men laugh. The women look abashed (558). Throughout the course of the investigation, how do the men view the women and their abilities?

29. What does the county attorney mean when he says, “But you know juries when it comes to women. If there was some definite thing. Something to show–something to make a story about–a thing that would connect up with this strange way of doing it–”? (562-563)

30. What items do the women gather to take to the jail for Mrs. Wright, and how are these items significant? (557, 560)

31. What does Mrs. Hale do with the sewing basket containing the dead bird? (563)

32. How are the last two lines of the play ironic? (563)

33. What do you think the women will do with the sewing basket and its damaging contents?

34. In your opinion, is this a “feminist” play? Why or why not?

# # #


(Questions based on text from Literature and Society: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, Drama, Poetry, 4th Edition, Eds. Pamela J. Annas and Robert C. Rosen. Upper Saddle River (NJ): Pearson/Prentice Hall, 2007. 551-564.)

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