In what sense is the process of making a quilt an appropriate metaphor for the plot of Trifles by Susan Glaspell?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The process of making a quilt is an appropriate metaphor--an explication of one thing by a reference to another--for the plot of Trifles because Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters piece together the small occurrences and the details that complete the design of the murder of Mr. Wright.

While Mrs. Hale, the neighbor, and Mrs. Peters, the wife of the sheriff, wait for their husbands, who are upstairs with the county attorney, Mrs. Hale finds a quilt on which Mrs. Wright has been working. Discovering some erratic stitching, Mrs. Hale impulsively pulls it out and re-sews it. Then, Mrs. Peters gathers up the articles of clothing requested by Mrs. Wright, who is in jail. As she looks for some paper and string with which to wrap these things, Mrs. Peters discovers a bird-cage that has the hinge on the door torn apart. Examining it, the women wonder about the bird that was in it. But, it is not long before they discover the canary enclosed in a pretty box which they thought might contain scissors.

MRS. HALE.  But, Mrs. Peters--look at it. Its neck! Look at its neck! It's all--other side to.
MRS. PETERS.  Somebody wrung--the--its neck.

Later, the women piece occurrences together as if they have been quilting their thoughts:

  • The rope around Mr. Wright's neck that has been used to choke Mr. Wright to death is the Wright's. So, probably no one has entered their house.
  • Mrs. Wright must have been sewing her quilt when Mr. Wright angrily and cruelly silenced the canary after pulling open the cage.
  • This little bird and its pretty song have brought her the only joy that Mrs. Wright has had in her isolated life. The significance of this bird to the lonely Mrs. Wright has probably been tremendous. Its death, then, may have caused her to become unhinged emotionally, and her thoughts have become much like the erratic stitching on the quilt.
  • She has probably killed her husband in the same manner that her pretty songbird had been killed.
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