The Danger in Trifles
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Susan Glaspells “Trifles” is a play about a real life murder case that uses
symbolism to help bring it to a close. It is easy to see that Mr. and Mrs. Wright live
in a society that is cut off from the outside world and also strongly separated by
gender. Three of the key symbols in Glaspells play are a simple bird cage, a quilt,
and isolationism. Anna Uong of Virginia Tech and Karen Shelton of JSRCC share
these same ideas on symbolism. These three symbols are the main clues that help
the reader decide who killed Mr. Wright.
The bird cage that was found is one of the most profound symbols in the
story. Mrs. Hale describes Minnie as, “kind of like a bird herself, real sweet and
pretty but kind of timid and fluttery”(841). The bird and Minnie are similar because
they are both caged in. When Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters find the broken birdcage,
they think nothing of it until they discover the bird. He was found wrapped in a
cloth inside of a small box, with his neck wrung. “Mrs. Wright wrapped the dead
bird in a silk cloth and placed it inside a fancy box; this symbolises her cherishing of
her past life.”(Uong, 1) When John strangles the life out of Minnies bird, he also
strangles the life out of Minnie. The broken birdcage that was found represents
Minnies liberation from John. Just like the bird, Minnie has now freed herself from
John by killing him.
The second symbol that ties the story together is the quilt, which was
symbolic of Minnies life. The quilt that Minnie was working on at the time of her
husbands death is almost perfect, except for the most recently sewn block. It is said
to be “All over the place as if she didnt know what she was about,” states Mrs.
Hale”(840). This is another clue into how enraged and flustered Minnie was.
Minnies last straw was when John killed her bird. When the bird died, so did
Minnies personality. After that murder, Minnie was enraged, confused, and didnt
know what to do. Mrs. Hale wondered “if she was goin to quilt it or knot it”(840).
By quilting the blanket, she would have chosen to endure the pain that John was
putting her through, but by knotting the quilt she chose to eliminate it. Just as a knot
represents a finishing or a completion of a project, it also was an end to John. The
weaving of the quilt also symbolises the building up of the marriage and then the end
of it. “The quilt started out as a beautiful piece of art and was brought to a close by a
couple of sloppy stitches and knots”(Uong). Just like the Wrights marriage, the
quilt was beautiful until the end where everything was simply
The Danger in Trifles