Susan Glaspell’s Play Trifles Plot Summary American Literature Help summarize trifles plot by susan glaspell from The Norton Anthology of American Literatu

Susan Glaspell’s Play Trifles Plot Summary American Literature Help summarize trifles plot by susan glaspell from The Norton Anthology of American Literature, Shorter Ninth Edition, 1865 to Present. SHERWOOD ANDERSON
SHERIFF (chuckling)
ears and
Iness is.
er he was
gh, look
[chuckling] Married to the law. [moves toward the other room] I
just want you to come in here a minute, George. We ought to take a look
at these windows.
COUNTY ATTORNEY [scoffingly] Oh, windows!
SHERIFF We’ll be right out, Mr Hale.
[HALE goes outside. The SHERIFF follows the COUNTY ATTORNEY into the
other room. Then MRS HALE rises, hands tight together, looking intensely
at MRS PETERS, whose eyes make a slow turn, finally meeting MRS
. A moment MRS HALE holds her, then her own eyes point the way
to where the box is concealed. Suddenly MRS PETERS throws back quilt
pieces and tries to put the box in the bag she is wearing. It is too big. She
opens box, starts to take bird out, cannot touch it, goes to pieces, stands
there helpless. Sound of a knob turning in the other room. MRS HALE
snatches the box and puts it in the pocket of her big coat. Enter COUNTY
COUNTY ATTORNEY [facetiously
] Well, Henry, at least we found out that
law has
e Foster
there in
ome over
o’s going
ngs can
ll just a
she was not going to quilt it. She was going to—what is it you call it,
MRS HALE (her hand against her pocket] We call it-knot it, Mr Hen-
uit 1126
I to her
Moto poudasai W
ni barungen
a good
followed by
n you don’t enjoy things
hes and be lively, when
7ging in the choir. But
as to take in?
have been heard coming down the stairs. The sheriff enters
The men laugh, the women look abashed.)
thing to want, for there
s. But I suppose just to
They wonder if she was going to quilt it or just knot it!
do much up there, did it? Well, let’s go out to the barn and
COUNTY ATTORNEY (rubbing his hands over the stovel Frank’s fire didn’t
cleared up
the top drawer in this
men go outside.]
get that
at always hung behind
MRS HALE (resentfully I don’t know as there’s anything so strange, our
the evidence. (she sits down at the big table smoothing out a block with
decision] I don’t see as it’s anything to laugh about.
their minds.
[apologetically] Of course they’ve got awful important things
an apron and her little
tsteps are heard in the
is bad for her, Mr Hen-
make fun of her sayin
Why, it looks as if she didn’t know what she
when they was
done awful crafty and
man, rigging it all up
as a gun in the house.
[Pulls up
a chair and joins MRS HALE at the table.]
WAS HALE [examining another block). Mas Peters, look at this one. Here,
this is the one she was working on, and look at the sewing! All the rest
|After she has said this they look at each other, then start to glance back
the sewing.)
at the door. After an instant MRS HALE has pulled at a knot and ripped
MRS PETERS Oh, what are you doing, Mrs Hale?
MRS HALE (mildly] Just pulling out a stitch or two that’s not sewed very
good. (threading a needle] Bad sewing always made me fidgety.
MRS PETERS (nervously] I don’t think we ought to touch things
MRS HALE I’ll just finish up this end. (suddenly stopping and leaning for-
ward] Mrs Peters?
MRS PETERS Yes, Mrs Hale?
MRS HALE What do you suppose she was so nervous about?
MRS PETERS Oh I don’t know. I don’t know as she was nervous. I some-
times sew awful queer when I’m just tired. (MRS HALE starts to say some-
thing, looks at MRS PETERS, then goes on sewing] Well I must get these
things wrapped up. They may be through sooner than we think. [putting
apron and other things together] I wonder where I can find a piece of
paper, and string
MRS HALE In that cupboard, maybe.
Why, here’s a bird-cage. [holds it up)
MRS PETERS [looking in cupboard]
what was needed for
or-sudden feeling.
don’t see any signs
sh-towel which lies on
which is clean, the other
finish work, then turns
ops towel. In that voice
they are finding things
up there. You know, it
and then coming out
inst her!
Better loosen up your
u go out.
Did she have a bird, Mrs Hale?
MRS HALE Why, I don’t know whether she did or not-I’ve not been here
but I don’t know as she took one; maybe she did. She used to sing real
ing it on hook at backo
pretty herself.
PETERS (glancing around) Seems funny to think of a bird here. But
nall corner table]
she must have had one, or why would she have a cage? I wonder what
-ok at the bright pieces
wonder if she was goin
happened to it.
MRS HALE I s’pose maybe the cat got it.
MAS PETERS No, she didn’t have a cat. She’s got that feeling some people
t cats-being afraid of them. My cat got in her room and she
have about
was real upset and asked me to take it out.
alling just below the shoulders
love. The
What-was she doing?
was kind of-pleating it.
a ordinarity be called
of done up
hands) This feels and
forward] I’m not cold
How did she seem to feel about your coming?
HALE She was rockin’ back and forth. She had her apron in her hand and
COUNTY ATTORNEY And how did she look?
HALE Well, she looked queer.
COUNTY ATTORNEY How do you mean-queer?
HALE Well, as if she didn’t know what she was going to do next. And kind
a stand close together
and looks fearfully about a
Why, I don’t think she minded one way or other. She didn’t
much attention. I said, ‘How do. Mrs Wright it’s cold, ain’t it?’ And she
said, ‘Is it?’ and went on kind of pleating at her apron. Well, I was sur-
prised: she didn’t ask me to come up to the stove, or to set down, but just
she-laughed. I guess you would call it a laugh. I thought of Harry and
pat and stepping away from the
business! Now, Mr Hale,
kind o dull like. ‘Ain’t he home?’ says I. ‘Yes,’ says she, ‘he’s home.’ “Then
Ar Henderson just what your
end Frank out this
st the same. When it droga
has anything been moved
onia with a big case on be
tove–and you know Frank
hould have been left herever
I had to send Frank to Mori
ant you to know I had my te
ack from Omaha by today all
ale, tell just what happed
town with a load of potential
ad as I got here I said, Img
vith me on a party telepho
pat there, not even looking at me, so I said, ‘I want to see John. And then
the team outside, so I said a little sharp: ‘Can’t I see John?” No,’ she
why can’t I see him?” I asked her, out of patience. “Cause he’s dead,’ says
she. Dead?’ says I. She just nodded her head, not getting a bit excited,
but rockin’ back and forth. ‘Why—where is he?’ says I, not knowing what
to say. She just pointed upstairs like that ?himself pointing to the room
above] I got up, with the idea of going up there. I walked from there to
here-then I says, ‘Why, what did he die of?’ ‘He died of a rope round his
neck,’ says she, and just went on pleatin’ at her apron. Well, I went out
and called Harry. I thought I might—need help. We went upstairs and
there he was lyin’
COUNTY ATTORNEY I think I’d rather have you go into that upstairs, where
you can point it all out. Just go on now with the rest of the story.
HALE Well, my first thought was to get that rope off. It looked [stops,
his face twitches] … but Harry, he went up to him, and he said, “No, he’s
dead all right, and we’d better not touch anything.’ So we went back down
stairs. She was still sitting that same way. ‘Has anybody been notified?’ I
asked. “No,’ says she unconcerned. Who did this, Mrs Wright?’ said Harry.
1 he put me off, saying i He said it business-like—and she stopped pleatin’ of her apron. ‘I don’t
know,’ she says. ‘You don’t know?’ says Harry. “No,’ says she. ‘Weren’t you
elf; but I thought mantell sheepinin the bed with him?” says Harry. Yes,’ says she, but I was on the
inside. “Somebody slipped a rope round his neck and strangled him and
you didn’t wake up?’ says Harry. ‘I didn’t wake up,’ she said after him. We
must ‘a looked as if we didn’t see how that could be, for after a minute she
said, ‘I sleep sound.’ Harry was going to ask her more questions but I said
maybe we ought to let her tell her story first to the coroner, or the sheriff,
so Harry went fast as he could to Rivers’ place, where there’s a telephone.
COUNTY ATTORNEY And what did Mrs Wright do when she knew that you
had gone for the coroner?
HALE She moved from that chair to this one over here [pointing to a small
chair in the corner) and just sat there with her hands held together and
looking down. I got a feeling that I ought to make some conversation, so
I said I had come in to see if John wanted to put in a telephone, and at
that she started to laugh, and then she stopped and looked at me-scared.
the COUNTY ATTORNEY, who has had his notebook out, makes a note]
was peace and quiet
his wife, though I said it
ated made much difference
t that later, Mr Hale. I do
happened when you go
I knocked at the dar
t be up, it was past eightin
card somebody say
, con
sed the door-this durys
will standing and there
752 1
on the
| under the sink, a loaf of bread outside the bread-box,
table-other signs of incompleted work. At the rear the outer door opens and
the SHERIFF comes in followed by the COUNTY ATTORNEY and HALE. The SHER-
IFF and HALE are men in middle life, the COUNTY ATTORNEY is a young man;
two women- the SHERIFF’s wife first; she is a slight wiry woman, a thin ner-
looking, but she is disturbed now and looks fearfully about as she enters. The
all are much bundled up and go at once to the stove. They are
women have come in slowly, and stand close together near the door
They are followed by the
af dome
much att
said. 2
Mrs Peters (after taking a step forward] I’m not-cold.
sat there
mark business
Now, Mr Hale, before we move
the team
con trener rabbing his hands) This feels good
. Come up to cha
things about, you explain to Mr Henderson just what you saw when
came here yesterday morning.
COUNTY ATTORNEY By the way, has anything been moved? Are things just
sheriff [looking about] It’s just the same. When it dropped below
last night I thought I’d better send Frank out this morning to make a fire
for us-no use getting pneumonia with a big case on, but I told him not
to touch anything except the stove—and you know Frank.
COUNTY ATTORNEY Somebody should have been left here
SHERIFF Oh-yesterday. When I had to send Frank to Morris Center for
that man who went crazy—I want you to know I had my hands full yes-
terday. I knew you could get back from Omaha by today and as long as
I went over everything here myself—
COUNTY ATTORNEY Well, Mr Hale, tell just what happened when you
why can
she. De
but rock
to say. S
above] 1
Dear mount University
neck, s
and cal
there h
you can
Toob srl
his face
came here yesterday morning. boum
HALE Harry and I had started to town with a load of potatoes. We came
along the road from my place and as I got here I said, ‘I’m going to see if
I can’t get John Wright to go in with me on a party telephone.” I spoke to
Wright about it once before and he put me off, saying folks talked too
and all he asked was peace and quiet— I guess you know
about how much he talked
; but I thought maybe if I went to the
much anyway,
He sa
you d
house and talked about it before his wife, though I said to Harry that I
didn’t know as what his wife wanted made much difference to John-
COUNTY ATTORNEY Let’s talk about that later, Mr Hale. I do want to talk
about that, but tell now just what happened when you got to the house.
HALE I didn’t hear or see anything; I knocked at the door, and still it was
knocked again, and I thought I heard somebody say, ‘Come in.’ I wasn’t
all quiet inside. I knew they must be up, it was past eight o’clock. So I
door by which the two women are still standing and there in that rocker-
So H
(pointing to it) sat Mrs Wright.
[They all look at the rocker.]
1. A single telephone line shared by several households.
hind you
ut me
he only field
ess gall?
of make-believe,
th a pine,
Morning Republican after high school graduation, then attended Drake University
Born and raised in Davenport, Iowa, Glaspell worked for a year on the Davenport
as well as various Des Moines papers, after graduation she worked for two years on
in Des Moines from 1895 to 1899. In college she wrote for the campus newspaper
the Des Moines Daily News. In 1901 she abandoned journalism, returning to Day-
enport with a plan to earn her living as a fiction writer. Her early stories, combining
such popular magazines as Harper’s, the Ladies’ Home Journal, the American Maga-
regional midwestern settings with romantic plots, found favor with the editors of
zine, and the Woman’s Home Companion. In 1909 she published her first novel,
of the children.
make them glad.
The Glory of the Conquered.
In 1913 she married the recently divorced George Cram Cook, a Harvard
educated native of Davenport, who was a writer and theatrical director much inter-
ested in modernist experimentation. The two moved to the East Coast, traveled
widely, and collaborated on many projects. They helped found both the Washington
Square Players in 1914 and the group that came to be known as the Provincetown
are a house,
se in earnest.
Players in 1916.
when aroused
arb and thorn.
also acted in them, directed them, and helped produce them. From 1916 to 1922 she
Glaspell withdrew from the
an’t find it,
says they mustnt,
en’s playhouse.
The Provincetown Players, named for the New England seaport town where
of the members spent their summers, aimed to foster an American theater by pro-
ducing plays by American playwrights only. Eugene O’Neill became the best-known
dramatist of the group; Glaspell was a close second. She not only wrote plays but
wrote nine plays, including Trifles, for the Provincetown Players; in 1922 Cook and
cessful to suit their experimental aims.
Cook died in 1924; a later close relationship, with the novelist and playwright
Norman Matson, ended in 1932. Throughout the 1930s and 1940s, Glaspell, now a
year-round resident of Provincetown, continued to write and publish. Her novel Judd
Rankin’s Wife (1928) was made into a movie. She won the 1930 Pulitzer Prize for
drama for Alison’s Room, a play loosely based on the life of Emily Dickinson. Her last
novel, Judd Rankin’s Daughter, appeared in 1945, three years before she died at the
age of seventy-two.
For Glaspell, the influence of such European playwrights as Henrik Ibsen and
August Strindberg opened the door to much grimmer writing in a play like Trifles
than in her popular short stories, with their formulaic happy endings. Her
realism-her unsparing depiction of women’s narrow, thwarted, isolated, and sub-
jugated lives in rural, regional settings-produces effects unlike the nostalgic cel-
ebrations of woman-centered societies often associated with women regionalists.
The efficiently plotted Trifles also features a formal device found in other Glaspell
works, including Alison’s Room: the main character at its center never appears.
The text is from Plays by Susan Glaspell (1987).
tering place.
Round Table, went in questo
quest for the Grail has come his
piritual search
erence to Mark 4.11-12; see hil
Puud oma ton mln
LEWIS HALE, a Neighboring Farmer
writer, playwright,
and fourteen pilos
ed professional who
SCENE: The kitchen in the now abandoned farmhouse of John Wright, a
produced in 1916 23
“in 191has made
gloomy kitchen, and left without having been put in order—unwashed pans

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