Psychopathic: One Murder after Another
In Susan Glaspell’s Trifles, Mrs. Wright has been arrested for the murder of her husband. The author describes her as a hard working house wife. She would spend hours in the hot summer making fruit preserves. Minnie Foster uses to be lively and social before she married John Wright. She would sing in a choir like a beautiful bird. From this perspective, readers will surely believe she is innocent. There is no way a sweet lady like her could have committed such a hideous crime, or could she? Although she had a normal personality, Mrs. Wright possesses a dark side. The killing of her husband is not an act of revenge for the death of her bird, but surely an act of a psychopath.
According to Cleckley, psychopaths normally show anxiety and do not feel guilt once they have committed a crime. Cleckley states, “The crimes of psychopaths are usually stone-cold, remorseless killings for no apparent reason. They cold-bloodedly take what they want and do as they please without the slightest sense of guilt or regret” (Cleckley). Psychopaths lack the ability to feel remorse and empathy. They feed themselves with the suffering of their victims. Sometimes, they collect certain things from their victims and keep them as trophies. In addition, psychopaths are calculated predators. Once they have picked a victim, they will take days or even weeks to plan out the attack.
Robert Hare once claims, “Psychopaths must have stimulation and are prone to boredom” (Hare). Psychopaths need to have a social life; they need be able to communicate with others. If they do not have this access, they tend to, as many sociologists believe, “burst” and resort to violence just like Mrs. Wright.
Mrs. Wright exemplifies a psychopath because she exhibits many of its characteristics. Most readers, if not all, believe that Mrs. Wright kills her husband. Some consider it an act of revenge; however, it is not. The killing is an act of a psychopath. In the beginning of the story, Hale describes Mrs. Wright as anxious “and was kind of-pleating (her apron)” (1325). When people are nervous, they usually grab on to something that they have been accustomed to for many years. In Mrs. Wright’s case, it is her apron. As stated earlier, psychopaths usually show anxiety after killing their victim and Mrs. Wright displays it as she sits on her chair.
One clear sign showing Mrs. Wright as a psychopath is her inability to feel guilt and remorse. As she sits on her chair, there is no description detailing her remorse or guilt for the killing of her husband. Instead, readers receive a chilling description of her. As Hale continues to ask for Mr. Wright, he asserts, “She just nodded her head, not getting a bit excited” (1325). Here is a cold-blooded woman who has just murdered her husband. She does not cry or ask for forgiveness. On the contrary, she feels nothing, as if the killing has never happened, and she denies any involvement. Mrs. Wright is a true psychopath.
Besides her inability to feel guilt and remorse, Mrs. Wright has a thirst for the suffering of her victim. Later in the story, Mrs. Hale mentions, “There was a gun in the house” (1329). If there were a gun in the house, why did Mrs. Wright not use it? By using the gun, Mr. Wright would have been killed instantly, and there would be no time for Mrs. Wright to enjoy his suffering. Instead, she uses a rope to strangle her husband. This way would give Mrs. Wright enough time to enjoy her husband’s suffering, while minimizing the chance of him getting loose.
The murder of Mr. Wright itself takes place in his bedroom during the night. Somehow, Mrs. Wright is able to get a rope around her husband’s neck. According to Cleckley, psychopaths are calculated killers, and Mrs. Wright demonstrates it perfectly. In a paper written by one of Professor Beard’s students, she mentions that the killing is “Only in a prearranged, calculated act” (Two Snaps and a Death 3). The student continues to affirm that it would have been much easier for Minnie to kill her husband if “the marriage bed’s headboard had been composed of slats” (Two Snaps and a Death 3). This way Minnie could just weave the rope “between the slats” and pull (Two Snaps and a Death 4). It would have been impossible for Mr. Wright to free himself.
A crucial trait of psychopaths is their urge to collect victims’ personal things and keep as trophies. For example, in the case of B.T.K., Dennis Rader used to collect his victims’ identification cards as mementos. Mrs. Wright shares the same characteristic as Rader. In her case, she keeps her dead bird as a trophy. When she finishes killing the bird and enjoys all of its suffering, she must have been exhilarated. That is why she resolves to killing her husband for the same ecstasy.
Finally, the only question left for readers to ask is how this could have happened. The simplest answer is her isolation from everyone else in the town. The ladies describe Mrs. Wright’s house as “weren’t cheerful” (1331). Mrs. Hale continues by suggesting: “I think maybe that’s why she kept so much to herself. She didn’t even belong to the Ladies Aid” (1328). In addition, the Wrights live in a secluded area, deep from the road. Mrs. Wright excludes herself from every social event, and she has no children of her own. She would spend hours by herself in the house. According to many psychologists, they believe one of the signs of a psychopath is one’s withdrawal from society, and Mrs. Wright shows evidence of it.
From the outside, Mrs. Wright seems to be a normal house wife, whose job is to cook and watch the property. However, she possesses a darker side. By analyzing her behaviors, readers are able to see that side. She possesses similar characteristics to those psychologists have identified as psychopaths. She is anti-social and all of her personalities point to her as a psychopath. Some believe that Mrs. Wright’s act was an act of revenge for the death of her bird–not so.
Cleckley, Harvey. “The Mask of Sanity”. 1986.
Mann, Denise. “The BTK Killer: Portrait of a Psychopath”. Web MD. 2005
Hare, Roberts. “The Hare Psychopathy Checklist-Revised”. Toronto: Multi-Health Systems, 1991.
Glaspell, Susan. “Trifle”. Ed. X.J. Kennedy-Dana Gioia. New York: Longman, 2002.