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Free Social Justice vs. Criminal Justice in Trifles Essay Sample

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Trifles, is a well organized display of male insensitivity and arrogance written by Susan Glaspell. Following a man's murder seemingly by his partner, the Sheriff and his wife, a neighboring farmer together with his wife, and the County Attorney, visit the empty house to take clothes for the imprisoned wife and also find clues to the murder. But as the men walk around the house bemused as to what would have been the motive, the women slowly and secretly piece together the motive for what happened from the trifles they come across. A quilt that was poorly stitched and a dead song bird with its neck broken in a fancy box in the room. And in doing so they decide to hide the evidence, because they feel that this was a failure on their part, to help a fellow woman who's suffering, they had done nothing to help. Without a child and her spirit broken by her husband just as he had broken the neck of her song bird that she used to go for consolation, the woman struck back, and hard she struck. These women therefore recognize this pain and feel with her, Mrs. Peters says "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? We mustn't take on" (Ward p. 171).


This on the face of it may seem to draw some sympathy towards Minnie Wright and depict her more like a victim than a suspect; this does not mean that murder should be a justifiable action, no matter what the circumstance is, no one should be allowed or even excused to take another person's life. It is quiet clear that throughout history, many authors write about events and situations in the context of the time period in which they are writing or simply the time period in which their writing takes place. This is exactly the case with the play "Trifles'. Each character is shown as having his or her own outlook about the mysterious murder of Mr. Wright. The motive of women is clearly distinguished from that of men. Remember, this was a time when women were seen by men as insignificant figures in the society, they were looked upon and virtually blamed for anything that happened in the society. Therefore when the three men see Mrs. Wright outside her house while the body of her husband still lay inside their house, they instinctively believe she is the one responsible for the horrible murder. So we see that as the men delve into gathering evidence or clues that could lead to the cause of the murder, the women discuss quietly the past life of Mrs. Wright amongst themselves. Mrs. Peters recalls Mrs. Wright's happy life before her marriage, she says "I wish you'd seen Minnie Foster, when she wore a white dress with blue ribbons, and stood up their in the choir and sang" (Ward p.170). These two women, Mrs. Peters and Mrs. Hale, therefore feel sympathetic towards her because, to them, all that spirit in her seemed to have died in marriage. They therefore go to the extent of hiding the evidence from the men after discovering it. Mrs. Hale does this because she understands the gender bias that existed in the society and therefore she was simply looking out for her fellow woman. (Ward p.170).

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The women argue that Mrs. Wright's existence and her behavior were determined by her husband who makes the rules she lives by, in fact Mrs. Peters says "A person gets discouraged-and loses heart" (Ward p. 164). Mrs. Peters and Mrs. Hale, therefore see themselves being in the same boat. The patronizing dismissal of the law about everything that the women understand and know, of their point of view and life experiences, leaves them no option but to rebel. They see that by accepting the interpretation of the legal system of Mrs. Wright's actions would mean accepting that all women are evil and crazy. They saw this as a system of meaning that does not value their perspective, one that obviates their subject hood and also status as humans. Accepting it, from their point of view would then mean self denial and also self-annihilation. To them these were merely acts of self preservation and self defense aimed at preserving their sanity, dignity, and humanity. Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters therefore set out to conduct their own alternative legal process, determined what was and what was not relevant to the case, and come up with their own ruling. This, from a gender perspective may be seen to justify Mrs. Hale's and Mrs. Peters' views. (Ward p. 164).

But even if it seems that the women's argument concerning Mrs. Wright's actions is justified, a more precise understanding of the situation is needed. Understanding this is important because the moral implications of this might have devastating effects in the society. To clearly understand the morality of these actions, assume that Mrs. Hale, by hiding the body of the canary secured the acquittal or release of Mrs. Wright. The only thing that we know about Mr. Wright is that he was close-fisted, cold and taciturn. Even if one assumes that he was guilty of mental cruelty, then what kind of message will be sending to the society? Does it mean that every spouse who believes that his or her partner is guilty of mental cruelty is justified to take the law in his or her own hands? What will happen if a harmless man is browbeaten and bullied by an emotionally abusive wife? Will he also be justified to strangle the wife if she breaks his only consolation, the T.V. or gives his dog away? Mr. Wright might just have snapped the neck of his wife's bird probably in a fit of heartsickness, perhaps after receiving some bad news that could have driven him over the edge. This one sided stance that the writer takes, making the reader applaud Mrs. Wright's actions, fails to consider its implications. If murder, especially one that is motivated by the mental cruelty of a spouse, goes without punishment, then this could just increase domestic violence. Another problem that these two women's conduct brings is their rush in judging Mr. Wright without giving him the benefit of a full trial that would have provided the needed details concerning the real facts of their relationship. Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters had no sufficient knowledge of exactly what happened in this household to decide right away that the defendant should be released to the society. People should understand that domestic violent can be two-way street. Do Mrs. Peters and Mrs. Hale know enough that makes them so sure that Mrs. Wright is totally innocent? In appreciating the hiding of evidence by the women, those who back the women fail to put into consideration a vital passage that should bring forth doubts about Mrs. Wright behavior or even the degree of her sanity. Mrs. Hale confirms this when she says that Mrs. Wright's behavior was queer when she entered the room where her husbands body lay, when asked by the county attorney how she looked, she says "Well, she looked-queer" (Ward p. 157). She even laughed, this may just as well reflect the satisfaction of a cold-blooded killer, and if not then it may suggest mental capacity that is diminishing. The canary was the only evidence that could unlock this mystery, but unfortunately, it was hidden by the women. (Ward p. 157).

The destruction of the evidence brings aboard three societal evils: it belies the hunt for truth, the aim of the adversarial process and the purpose of trial; it is not fair to the other involved party or parties; it sabotages the legitimacy of the judicial system by doubting the justness of the verdict and the of the court process's integrity. The search for truth does not just affect a family and neighbors, but the whole community that is interested in a trial that's full and impartial. Just because of the evidence that was destroyed the community in which Mr. and Mrs. Wright live will never come to know whether the murder was justified in the sense that the defendant had a fear of violence that was legitimate, from her husband, whether she was suffering from emotional abuse that was severe or it was just a mild marital disagreement, or whether she was just but an abusive partner. Since time immemorial, from the time of the bible, obstruction of justice has all along been condemned mostly on moral grounds. Many statutes have been set up to deal with obstruction of justice. They prohibit alteration, concealment and destruction of processed documents. Mrs. Peters' and Mrs. Hale's actions did all these. Therefore, whether or not they should have been convicted of obstruction, the morality of their actions in tampering with evidence should be considered.

From the play, it is indefensible for one to argue that the law against murder was unjust. Secondly, even if one argues that the twentieth century criminal codes were not just with issues touching women abuse, there is no textual evidence that shows that Mr. Wright physically abused his wife. Thirdly, Mrs. Hale's and Mrs. Peters' actions, disobeyed the law just to exonerate one individual who was guilty, just because they believed that she should not be punished. These two women foreclosed the jury, although it was an all-male jury, from the chance to look at the evidence and make an informed decision. Murder is just murder, and any one who takes another person's life should be held responsible for it.

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