Susan Glaspell’s “Trifles” is a play about a real life murder case that usessymbolism to help bring it to a close. It is easy to see that Mr.
and Mrs. Wright livein a society that is cut off from the outside world and also strongly separated bygender. Three of the key symbols in Glaspell’s play are a simple bird cage, a quilt,and isolationism. Anna Uong of Virginia Tech and Karen Shelton of JSRCC sharethese same ideas on symbolism. These three symbols are the main clues that helpthe reader decide who killed Mr.
Wright. The bird cage that was found is one of the most profound symbols in thestory. Mrs. Hale describes Minnie as, “kind of like a bird herself, real sweet andpretty but kind of timid and fluttery”(841). The bird and Minnie are similar becausethey are both caged in. When Mrs.Order now
Hale and Mrs. Peters find the broken birdcage,they think nothing of it until they discover the bird. He was found wrapped in acloth inside of a small box, with his neck wrung. “Mrs. Wright wrapped the deadbird in a silk cloth and placed it inside a fancy box; this symbolises her cherishing ofher past life. “(Uong, 1) When John strangles the life out of Minnie’s bird, he alsostrangles the life out of Minnie.
The broken birdcage that was found representsMinnie’s liberation from John. Just like the bird, Minnie has now freed herself fromJohn by killing him. The second symbol that ties the story together is the quilt, which wassymbolic of Minnie’s life. The quilt that Minnie was working on at the time of herhusbands death is almost perfect, except for the most recently sewn block. It is saidto be “All over the place as if she didn’t know what she was about,” states Mrs. Hale”(840).
This is another clue into how enraged and flustered Minnie was. Minnie’s last straw was when John killed her bird. When the bird died, so didMinnie’s personality. After that murder, Minnie was enraged, confused, and didn’tknow what to do. Mrs. Hale wondered “if she was goin’ to quilt it or knot it”(840).
By quilting the blanket, she would have chosen to endure the pain that John wasputting her through, but by knotting the quilt she chose to eliminate it. Just as a knotrepresents a finishing or a completion of a project, it also was an end to John. Theweaving of the quilt also symbolises the building up of the marriage and then the endof it. “The quilt started out as a beautiful piece of art and was brought to a close by acouple of sloppy stitches and knots”(Uong). Just like the Wright’s marriage, thequilt was beautiful until the end where everything was simply a mess.
Isolationism also plays a very important role in the story. The Wright’sfarmhouse is located in a hallow, in the woods. This sets her in a secluded placeaway from most civilisation. The Wright’s didn’t even have a phone in their houseto be able to call anyone.
Mr. Hale came to talk to Mr. Wright about a phone a fewtimes but, “he put me off, saying folks talked too much anyway. . .
“(Glaspell, p. 835). This is an example of how Mr. Wright did not want him or his wife to have regularcontact with anyone in town, which is another part of John sheltering Minnie and notletting her live her life. This is why Minnie’s bird was so important to her.
“It wasthe only normality to the outside world she had, and Mr. Wright had taken that awayfrom her”(Shelton). When John finally killed the bird, he also killed a part ofMinnie. Symbolism plays a big role in Susan Glaspell’s “Trifles. ” Symbolism is whathelps the reader decipher who killed Mr. Wright.
Glaspell uses a dead bird with it’scage, a quilt, and isolationism to create a motive in the mind of the reader. The birdsymbolised Minnie herself and how she was suppressed and literally murdered. Thequilt symbolised Minnie’s life and her choices about her husband; and finally theisolationism of Minnie gives her a good motive and reason to want to be free fromher husband. Glaspell’s use of symbolism gets the reader involved in the play andrequires the reader to piece together this puzzle of a murder. This .