Based on Susan Glaspell's one-act play Trifles, how can we define the word epiphany?
In Trifles, we see a low-level realization when Mrs. Hale almost sits in the rocking-chair earlier in the play. However, the major epiphany occurs a little later as Mrs. Peters and Mrs. Hale are sorting through Mrs. Wright’s belongings and make a startling discovery.
How does a startling discovery qualify as an epiphany, especially in contrast to the earlier rocking-chair moment?
An epiphany is generally defined as a sudden understanding of "the reality or essential meaning of something"; the understanding is particularly brought on by mundane experiences (Random House Dictionary). We can see the exact same definition of epiphany being employed in Susan Glaspell's one-act play Trifles.
We can particularly see the characters begin to reach a state of epiphany by the time they discover the broken bird cage. Their discovery of the bird cage hidden in the cupboard, along with the subsequent discovery that the cage's door has been pulled off by the hinge, leads to a discussion of many important and revealing points. First, they discuss how Mr. Wright was a "hard man" with a difficult temper. Second, they discuss how Mrs. Wright was a lot like a bird herself, "real sweet and pretty, but kind of timid and--fluttery"; plus, she even sang and was isolated in her house just like a bird is isolated in its cage. It's these two ideas they put together to reach their epiphany, an epiphany about what Mrs. Wright's emotional state must have been like.
Next, they find the dead bird with a broken neck wrapped in silk in Mrs. Wright's sewing basket, as if wrapped in a burial shroud. It's at this moment that they reach their final epiphany. We are never told exactly what conclusions they reach, but since the bird had its neck rung, it's likely they have deduced that Mr. Wright with his violent temper killed the bird and Mrs. Wright killed him out of revenge and because she felt trapped and isolated all these years, just like a caged bird.
Hence, as we can see, the word epiphany means the exact same thing in the play as it usually means. The two characters use mundane evidence, such as a broken bird cage and dead bird, to reach an epiphany about what Mrs. Wright must have been going through living in isolation with her cold, hard husband.