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In Susan Glaspell's Trifles, what are key symbols besides the birdcage?

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chaleygirl | eNotes Newbie

Posted March 30, 2009 at 11:59 AM via web

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In Susan Glaspell's Trifles, what are key symbols besides the birdcage?

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scarletpimpernel | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted March 31, 2009 at 4:31 AM (Answer #1)

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The bird itself is the main symbol in Trifles. Just as Mr. Wright literally choked the life out of Minnie Wright, he also destroyed his wife's spirit.  Mrs. Hale mentions that Minnie "used to wear pretty clothes and be lively . . . one of the towns girls singing in the choir."  After marrying Mr. Wright, she lost her voice--the ability to be cheerful--and, more importantly, she lost who she was.  The death of the bird symbolizes the death of Minnie Foster--who she was before marrying Mr. Wright.

Likewise, the rope (noose) which Minnie uses to kill her husband symbolizes the motif of "choking out someone's life."

In regards to symbolism, the quilt pieces also play a major role.  The women's reaction to the poorly sewn quilt piece demonstrates the difference between men's and women's perception.  The women realize that the piece is significant, but to the men, the sewing represents the trifles that usually occupy the minds of women.  The County Attorney asks the women in a tongue-in-cheek manner, "Well, ladies, have you decided whether she was going to quilt it or knot it?" Their answer of "knot it" illustrates the secret knowledge they have gleaned from paying attention to detail, and it also hints the manner in which Minnie murdered her husband.

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