Susan Glaspell wrote Trifles in the early 1900 s long before the modern women s movement began. Symbolism is used in the play so that the audience is able to see through the eyes of Minnie Wright, and determine why she killed her husband. Character s names, the bird, and a quilt are three key symbols Glaspell uses in the play to provide the audience with the insight on the never heard, or seen characters, Minnie and John Wright.
Glaspell uses character s names in Trifles as one form of symbolism. For instance, Minnies name has a double significance, Minnie being mini or minimized, which was descriptive of her relationship with her husband. The taking of the husband s names is also important in the story. Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters are not even given first names. The role that society has cast them in is one that is defined by their husbands. Mrs. Peters, the sheriff s wife is told that she is married to the law by the county attorney on page 324. The best example of symbolism using names is the image of Minnie Foster.
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I hear she used to be lively when she was Minnie Foster says Mrs. Hale on page 319. The image of Minnie Foster is used to show the audience what John Wright her husband, had abused her of denying her personality and individuality. This gave insight on the male dominance in the play.
Another way one is able to see through the eyes of Mrs. Wright is how Glaspell uses the bird and its cage as another form of symbolism. Mrs. Hale describes Minnie as kind of like a bird herself, real sweet and pretty, but kind of fluttery (p 322). When the women find the broken birdcage, they don t realize its importance until they find the dead bird. The bird was caged just as Minnie was trapped in an abusive relationship with John. John strangles the life out of the bird, just as he did Minnie. When John killed the bird, he also killed the last of Minnie. The broken birdcage represents Minnie’s freedom from John, and when she killed John her cage was broken as well.
The last symbolic key in Trifles was the quilt, which was symbolic of Minnie’s life. At first she took the scraps and put them into a nice, neat quilt. However, the block that she was working on was all over the place as if she didn’t know what she was about states Mrs. Hale on page 321.
When John killed the bird, he destroyed the last bit of personality that Minnie had for herself. She was angry and confused. The question that was asked about the quilt is whether Minnie will quilt it or knot it (320). 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.
In the play Trifles by Susan Glaspell, symbolism is used to help the audience figure out why Mrs. Wright killed her husband. Glaspell uses character s names, a bird and a quilt to symbolically explain what was going on in the mind of Minnie Wright, and what led to the murder of her husband. The character s names helped the audience to understand the male domination of the whole town, especially the dominance that was in the Wright s house.
The bird symbolized Minnie’s personality, and spirit, and how it was suppressed and literally murdered; and last but not least the quilt symbolized Minnie’s life, and also the choices that she made concerning her husband s murder. This was an excellent way to get the audience involved in the play, and the use of symbolism encouraged one to think about what was actually going on.