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. 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.