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In the one-act play by Susan Glaspell, Trifles, we find the characters of Mrs. Hale and Mrs Peters collecting items that Minnie Wright has requested from her jail cell, where she is held in connection to the murder of her husband by hanging.
Throughout their own review of the murder scene, the women find clues that illustrate the possibility that Mrs. Wright has probably snapped to the point of not having realized the magnitude of what she has allegedly done. Point in case, the request for her shawl and her apron.
She said she wanted an apron. Funny thing to want, for there isn't much to get you dirty in jail, goodness knows. But I suppose just to make her feel more natural. She said they was in the top drawer in this cupboard. Yes, here. And then her little shawl that always hung behind the door.
From what Mrs. Peters assumes, it may look as if Mrs. Wright tries to feel at home even if she is trapped in jail accused of a mayor crime. However, we could read this in a different way, as well. Mrs. Wright has completely snapped and has basically eradicated all feeling of guilt or worry off her mind as a result of the radical action she takes. She is fed up enough to use murder as a defense mechanism rather than as a way to avenge her husband.
Another thing to consider is that Mrs. Wright asks for the very things that keep her sane: Being a housewife and taking care of the household are things that obviously make her happy at one point. It is her husband what terrorizes what she finds to be a joy. Hence, she requests those very things, her fruit, her apron, and her shawl, which are the symbols of the home that she once loved. That, in turn, brings out her true self: That she is a good woman who went through a very awful situation.
Yes, Mrs. Hale?
Do you think she did it?
[In a frightened voice.]
Oh, I don't know.
Well, I don't think she did. Asking for an apron and her little shawl. Worrying about her fruit.
However, we should almost consider that, by asking for those specific things, Minnie Wright basically takes Mrs. Peters and Mrs. Hale into her life. For, as the ladies look for these objects, they are able to see what really has taken place in the household, and the horrors that Minnie has endured. The shawl, apron, and fruit are symbols that Mrs. Peters and Mrs. Hale would be familiar with and, therefore, they would sincerely appreciate the horror that leads Mrs. Wright to commit this ultimate act of desperation.
Mrs. Wright has been trapped in a cold, loveless marriage for thirty years. When she asks for her apron and shawl, it is because she feels at home in jail. She has just exchanged one prison for another. The birdcage is symbolic of the prison in which the bird resided. The author strives to have the audience equate Minnie Wright with the bird. The bird and its cage are an extended metaphor of Minnie Wright's dilemma. She was a bird in a cage. Trapped in the prison of a vapid existence, unable to extricate herself since divorce was not an option. The jars of fruit preserves broke because of the cold. The preserves are significant because they are symbolic of Minnie Wright's inability to preserve the fruit of her marriage due to the cold, distant demeanor of her husband John. She may have contemplated murdering him many times in the past, and hopes that she has not actually committed a murder and had only envisioned doing so.
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