What is the importance of the bird to the overall action and tone of the play?Please explain the last actions of Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters regarding the bird, pointing to its symbolic significance

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The discovery of the empty bird cage in a cupboard and, after that, the dead bird in the sewing box in a room that contains what the men think are trifling "kitchen things," is, ironically, crucial to uncovering the motive of the murder of Mr. Wright and evoking the sympathetic tone in the conversation of the women. Thus, the poor little bird with its broken neck becomes symbolic of the forlorn Mrs. Wright, whose mentally abusive husband objects to the little songbird's melodies and silences it just as he has silenced her singing and happiness. Like the empty cage, Mrs. Wright's life has become devoid of beauty and contentment; instead, it is a discord of broken jars and erratic stitching on mere pieces of quilting.

The dead canary is the final piece in the puzzle of the women's minds.  For, as they realize its neck has been wrung by Mr. Wright, the women look at each other with "growing comprehension [and] horror." For, Mr. Wright has been murdered by having a rope tied around his neck in imitation of the bird's death. With comprehension of the desperation in Mrs. Wright's life, Mrs. Hale remarks to Mrs. Peters,

"We all go through the same things--it's all just a different kind of the same thing."

After wiping her eyes, with an empathetic gesture, Mrs. Hale slips the sewing box under the quilt pieces when she hears the men so that they do not find the motive which will convict Mrs. Wright.

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