In Trifles and A Raisin in the Sun, what are the specific contextual symbols, and how do these symbols contribute to both works?

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scarletpimpernel eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The two most important contextual symbols in the plays are a bird in Trifles and a plant in Raisin. In both works, the symbols represent the dominant female characters.  Trifles' bird is symbolic of Minnie Wright who kills her husband by strangling him after he has broken her little bird's neck.  Not only is the dead bird the motive for the murder that the male characters are looking for, but it also represents the only good in Minnie's life that her husband managed to annihilate. In the end, the bird would be seen as a "trifle"--something unimportant--that only the women would worry about, but in actuality it answers all the questions that they so desperately want the answers to.

In Raisin, the plant belongs to and symbolizes Lena (Mama). To the members of her family, it is a trifle, something they urge her to throw away.  But to Mama the plant is something to shelter, for she has managed to nurture it in the small, cramped apartment and believes that if she can get her plant to flourish then she will be able to do the same with her family.

Both women end up with their symbols at the end of the plays.  Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters hide the bird and take it to Minnie Wright at the jail, where Glaspell implies she will be released for lack of evidence.  Similarly, Mama takes one last look at her apartment, grabs her plant, and heads out the door to her new life.

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A Raisin in the Sun

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