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The ladies find the dead bird in the sewing basket. They realize both that Mr. Wright killed the bird, and that it was what caused Minnie to kill him.
When John Wright is murdered, his wife does not confess. The Sheriff, Prosecutor, and a neighbor come to investigate. Their wives come too. The County Attorney asks the Sheriff if he is convinced that they should not look in the kitchen because there is “nothing important” there, and he responds that there is nothing but “kitchen things.”
The women are the ones that go to the kitchen. They find the real evidence of the crime. The women are looking in Minnie Wright’s kitchen and find the sewing basket, full of quilt squares. They notice evidence of uneven stitching on some of them, and Mrs. Hale even begins to fix it, saying that bad sewing makes her “fidgety.”
They find a bird cage with a broken door, but no bird. As they dig more into the basket, they find out why.
MRS. PETERS. It’s the bird.
MRS. HALE (jumping up.) But, Mrs. Peters—look at it. Its neck! Look at its neck! It’s all—other side to.
MRS. PETERS. Somebody—wrung—its neck.
It begins to dawn on them what happened. Mr. Wright broke the bird’s neck, and Minnie kept it. The women realize that this is an indicator of her guilt because it points to her state of mind. It is simply not a normal thing to do.
As the women search the kitchen, they notice things the men never would. They realize that Minnie was isolated. She used to sing and be happy, but her domineering husband kept her trapped in her house. Mrs. Hale perhaps says it best, in explaining why the women come to the house.
I might have known she needed help! I know how things can be—for women. I tell you, it’s queer, Mrs. Peters. We live close together and we live far apart. We all go through the same things—it’s all just a different kind of the same thing.
The women realize that Minnie killed her husband. They see evidence in fruit jars, dropped stitches, and the dead bird. These are all trifles, insignificant womanly details their husbands would miss. However, they point to Minnie’s state of mind and the life she was living.
The women feel responsible for not helping her sooner, and not seeing the cries for help and realizing how isolated and lonely she was. This is why they help her, knowing the men will never know.
This is really a play about perception. The women see things that the men do not, because the men see the world from their man-focused point of view. They completely ignore the kitchen, where a woman's life might be based, because they assume it is not important. In some ways, they are treating Minnie Wright just like her husband did, by not really seeing her. In this way, they completely miss all of the real evidence of what she did, and never are able to prove she did it.
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