What Is the Dramatic Irony in 'Trifles'?
Writers use various literary techniques to make their writing more effective. One method is dramatic irony, which occurs when the audience or reader understands a concept or situation that the characters do not. Dramatic irony illustrates the impact of misconceptions, adding depth to a story. One effective use of dramatic irony occurs in Susan Glaspell's play "Trifles" when the two female characters discover a dead bird, a clue to a murder that remains unknown to other key characters in the play.
The dramatic irony in "Trifles" builds as the women, Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters, find the clues about life in the Wright household. They discover the dead canary and note that someone appears to have broken its neck. The women know how much Mrs. Wright loved the bird, so they and the audience should make the assumption that Mr. Wright killed it. This deduction together with the other evidence of Mrs. Wright's growing instability (like the terrible sewing) lead the women and audience to believe in Mrs. Wright's guilt and the reason she killed her husband. This situation represents dramatic irony because the sheriff and county attorney remain oblivious to these clues, so the audience knows more than they do about the crime.
Kristie Sweet has been writing professionally since 1982, most recently publishing for various websites on topics like health and wellness, and education. She holds a Master of Arts in English from the University of Northern Colorado.