My students are going to discuss a short play by Susan Glaspell, called “Trifles” when we get back from spring break. (For the record, I’m blaming spring break for the drought of posts). It’s one-act play that uses a single, continuous scene in the kitchen of a farmhouse. The characters (three men and two women) are trying to find evidence for a man’s murder. Here’s a 20-minute video of the whole thing
The women succeed, but the evidence (specifically the discovery of a motive) would all but guarantee the conviction of the man’s wife. So, at the end of the play, it is fairly certain that the wife (who is never seen) murdered her husband and that the two women (who are seen) conceal the evidence that would convict her. They let a murderer escape justice.
And I don’t think I would be alone of any audience in thinking that they were doing the right thing. We cheer for the obstruction of justice. This woman we never see on-stage will go free and we are glad.
You could make the case that her husband was abusive, but the evidence is scarce. He is described as a “hard man” and he killed his wife’s pet canary, but that’s about it. The real reason we (the audience) don’t like him is because the women describe how his wife once liked to sing. How she once sang in the choir, but now (after her marriage) she never sang anymore.
It’s a metaphysical sin. It’s psychological. When a man marries a woman who sings–she should still be singing years later. There are all sorts of excuses, men, for failing in this duty. But there are no good reasons. Let us not enter into marriage lightly, because according to literary reasoning it is perfectly acceptable for our wives to murder us when their joy is killed.