In Susan Glaspell's story “A Jury of Her Peers,” the broken, empty birdcage symbolizes Minnie Wright's broken, empty life.
Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters find the birdcage as they are looking around Minnie's home after the murder of Minnie's husband. They are trying to discover why Minnie might have killed her husband. They catch sight of the birdcage and notice at once that there is no bird in it. Mrs. Hale suggests that perhaps the cat got it, but Mrs. Peters knows that Minnie Wright does not have a cat.
The cage's door is broken, twisted off its hinges as if it has been violently wrenched open. Minnie certainly never would have done such a thing, so the culprit must have been her husband. A little while later, the two women find a dead canary, wrapped in silk and placed in a pretty box. The bird's neck has been wrung.
It doesn't take Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters long to figure out what must have happened. Mr. Wright got tired of the canary's singing and killed the little creature. This bird symbolizes Minnie herself. As Mrs. Hale recalls, Minnie was once a cheerful, singing girl, pretty and ruffled, filled with life. But when she married Mr. Wright, that changed. After her marriage, Minnie became isolated. Her clothing grew shabby. She no longer sang or went out in public much. She was trapped in a cage, its door shut tight by a miserly, abusive husband. Minnie's life has been drained from her, and Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters understand that the malicious killing of the canary (a symbol of Minnie's former life) was likely the last straw for Minnie. Something snapped, and she killed the man who was tormenting her.