What are some symbols that Glaspell uses in her story “Trifles” to represent women’s roles and gender stereotyping?
The most striking symbols are the canary and the bird cage. The canary symbolizes the role of a woman in this kind of male-dominated society. The bird is kept in a cage and its only means of expression in this prison is to sing. Analogously, the traditional stereotype of the submissive woman was that she should stay in the home while the husband goes out into the world to work. So, the cage and the limits of the home are both like prisons.
Mrs. Wright was faced with a similar dilemma. Her farm was a good distance away from other people, including her friends. So, she was even more isolated. When her husband killed the canary, he essentially stifled the canary's only means of expression: singing. This evidently affected Mrs. Wright so much, that she decided to take out her vengeance upon him. When he killed the bird, he symbolically killed Mrs. Wright's "song." Mrs. Hale says of Mrs. Wright, "She used to sing. He killed that too." Mr. Wright killed the canary. He also killed Mrs. Wright's spirit over the course of their marriage. The imprisoned canary symbolizes a woman's limited role in a patriarchal society.