In "Trifles", what are the different types of figurative language used?

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juergems eNotes educator| Certified Educator

To build off of the previous answer, Susan Glaspell does not use a lot of figurative language within her one-act play, Trifles. This is because she so precisely uses one moment of figurative language to build up symbolism, that she really doesn't need anything else.

I am, of course, referring to Mrs. Hale using a simile that compares Mrs. Wright to a bird, which goes as such:

She—come to think of it, she was kind of like a bird herself—real sweet and pretty, but kind of timid and—fluttery. How—she—did—change.

After marrying John Wright, Minnie Foster became Mrs. Wright. She did not have any children, it seems that she did not have many friends because her home was not welcoming, and Mrs. Hale tells Mrs. Peters that John was "a hard man." Here we see the idea behind the simile: Mrs. Wright was like a bird, once flying freely, who had become caged. Mrs. Hale even says that Mrs. Wright used to "sing real pretty," furthering the comparison to a bird.

And so, the canary bird that Mrs. Wright kept as a pet, inside of a cage, becomes a symbol of herself. She was trapped in her own home and stifled by her husband. After they find Mrs. Wright's canary dead, wrapped up in her sewing box, we have this exchange:

MRS HALE: She liked the bird. She was going to bury it in that pretty box.

MRS PETERS: (in a whisper) When I was a girl—my kitten—there was a boy took a hatchet, and before my eyes—and before I could get there—(covers her face an instant)If they hadn't held me back I would have—(catches herself, looks upstairs where steps are heard, falters weakly)—hurt him.

MRS HALE: (with a slow look around her) I wonder how it would seem never to have had any children around, (pause) No, Wright wouldn't like the bird—a thing that sang. She used to sing. He killed that, too.

MRS PETERS: (moving uneasily) We don't know who killed the bird.

MRS HALE: I knew John Wright.

What the reader/audience and these two characters infer here is that Mr. Wright killed the bird, and the violent act was too much for Mrs. Wright— the bird was the only thing she had, and her husband took it from her, just as he had taken everything else. Killing that bird was like killing Mrs. Wright.

dalepowell1962 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Like most plays, Trifles depends on its dialogue and that does not always leave a lot of room for figurative language.  Most examples of figurative language show up in the the descriptions by the characters as similes- using things descriptions with like and as.  "Minnie Foster was like a bird" is one simile that is used.  One example of metaphor that is stated is the statement that John Wright "killed" Minnie Foster's (Mrs. Wright's) singing.  Also Mrs. Peters is asked if she ever thought of herself as being "married to the law'--this also would be a metaphor.