The Three Symbols in Trifles by Susan Glaspell
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The setting of a story is the physical and social context in which the action of a story occurs.(Meyer 1635) The setting can also set the mood of the story, which will help readers to get a better idea pf what is happening. The major elements of the setting are the time, place, and social environment that frame the characters. (Meyer 1635) "Trifles by Susan Glaspell portrays a gloomy, dark, and lonely setting. Glaspell uses symbolic objects to help the audience get a better understanding for the characters. The three symbolizes used are a birdcage, a bird, and rope.
The birdcage represents how Mrs. Wright was trapped in her marriage, and could not escape it. The birdcage door is broken which represents her broken marriage to Mr. Wright. It also represents Mrs. Wright escaping her marriage from Mr. Wright. When the door is open it allows Mrs. Wright to became a free woman. At one point in time the cage door use to have a lock that locked the bird inside the cage. This represents how Mr. Wright kept Mrs. Wright locked up from society. Mr. Wright knew that by keeping Mrs. Wright locked up, she would never be able to tell anyone how he really acted. Mr. Wright was very cruel to his wife.
Another symbolic object used in "Trifles," was a bird. The bird represents Mrs. Wright, lovely yet shy. Mrs. Hale even explained to Mrs. Peters that Mrs. Wright was kind of like a bird herself real sweet, and pretty, but kind of timid and fluttery.(Meyer 1006) When Mrs. Wright was Minnie Foster she sang in one of the town girls singing choir(Meyer 1004) which represent the bird, since the bird use to sing beautifully like Minnie.
The rope symbolizes death and destruction. When Mr. Wright was killed, he was chocked to death with a rope. The same way Mrs. Wright was killed, so was Mrs. Wright's bird. The death of Mr. Wright was Mrs. Wright's way of starting a new life. The bird's death symbolizes Mrs. Wright's dying because she is with Mr.
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Wright but by both the bird and Mr. Wright dying allows Mrs. Wright to be free.
The three symbols in "Trifles" allows the audience to understand how dark and miserable the setting was. Since Glaspell's story takes place in 1916 when women had few rights, and divorce wasn't an option, Mrs. Wright had to kill her husband to get out of a horrible marriage. The only Mrs. Wright was going to ever be happy was to take matters into her own hands.
Susan Glaspell, an author of one-act play “Trifles” (1916), described the position of women in the twentieth-century American society through symbolism. An author argued that men restricted women rights and freedom; they strived to make their wives dependable. Among several symbols used by Susan Glaspell in her play, the most important one is definitely a bird.
A bird is used in reference to the main character of the play, Minnie Foster, who became Mrs. Wright after her marriage to John Wright. Mrs. Wright had a canary in the cage in their quiet farmhouse. The bird used to sing a lot, but Mr. Wright did not like this singing. There were no children in their family, and Minnie often felt lonely and miserable. That is why she bought a bird. She treated this bird as if it was her child, and she also liked to sing to a bird; it meant a lot to a woman who was very lonely and unhappy in her marriage. The birdcage in the play is the symbol of Minnie’s restricted freedom. By using this symbol, the author compares Minnie with a bird trapped in a “cage” of her marriage.
Once the dead bird wrapped in silk was found in Mrs. Wright’s sewing basket. There is no direct indication of who did this to the bird, but it is quite obvious that only Mr. Wright could do this to a canary since he disliked its singing. His wife “was in the choir in her younger years and others enjoyed her voice”. With the death of her bird, Minnie felt like she had lost a part of herself and her voice. This was a turning point of the entire play. From this moment, Minnie’s transformation from a victim of a marriage into a free woman began. “She – come to think of it, she was kind of like a bird herself – real sweet and pretty, but kind of timid and – fluttery. How – she – did – change”. It is obvious that marriage changed Mrs. Wright’s character, but she could not accept this change and at the end killed her husband in a pursuit of freedom.
Thus, a bird in the play “Trifles” symbolizes Mrs. Wright, her sweet and friendly character before the changes caused by unhappy marriage. The bird could be also a symbol of Minnie’s unborn children that she could devote all her love and caring to if she had them. When her husband killed a bird, he obviously killed a lot more than just his wife’s singing. Finally, Minnie realized that she was no longer willing to live in the birdcage and paid extremely high price for the desired freedom.
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