Symbolic Illustration Of The Power Of Relationships In Susan Glaspell's Trifles

1197 words - 5 pages

Symbolic Illustration of the Power of Relationships in Susan Glaspell's Trifles


A friend can be a remarkable thing. Unfortunately, many lack the powerful bonds that all humans need to survive and lead healthy, happy lives. In Susan Glaspell's play Trifles, Mrs. Wright is starved of the human interaction and relationships she so desperately needs. Consequently, she is never rescued from her loneliness, is brought to the point where she cannot handle any more of life's saddening struggles, and kills her husband in his sleep. Through powerful and often ironic symbolism, such as Mrs. Wright's kitchen, the names of the characters, and the bird, Susan Glaspell clearly displays the power of human relationships and how truly devastating a lack of this absolute necessity can be.

One of the numerous symbols Glaspell uses to emphasize the importance of wholesome human relationships is Mrs. Wright's kitchen. Upon entering the crime scene, the men and women notice the unkept kitchen. They are alarmed by the "Dirty towels" (Glaspell 1174), the unwashed pans under the sink, a loaf of bread outside the breadbox," "the walls covered with a faded wall paper" (Glaspell 1172), and the "sticky" shelves (Glaspell 1174). The abrupt, incomplete work reflects the emptiness Mrs. Wright had bottled inside of herself and also displays the sudden sense of explosion she must have experienced to go as far as murdering Mr. Wright. Also, they see a small chair beside the kitchen table. Obviously intended for a child, the small chair illustrates Mrs. Wright's empty expectations of raising children. Mrs. Hale explains, "Not having children makes less work-but it makes a quiet house, and Wright out to work all day, and no company when he did come in" (Glaspell 1178). With no children in addition to an unfriendly husband, Glaspell stresses how vital human contact and friendships are through a single, empty chair. Another symbol of Mrs. Wright's lack of human interaction is her preserves in the kitchen. Mrs. Peters explains how Mrs. Wright "worried [that] if the fire'd go out [. . .] her jars would break" (Glaspell 1174) and feels sympathy towards her. The men, on the other hand, do not understand how Mrs. Wright can worry over such small "trifles" (Glaspell 1174) as she sits in jail for possibly murdering her husband. As strange as it is, it is because the preserves, along with any other work she does in her house, is all that she has. It is all that Mrs. Wright can proudly claim as hers. Hence, the broken jars of preserves the women find in her kitchen represent Mrs. Wright's shattered dreams and expectations of a fulfilling life with her husband. Like the jars, Mrs. Wright bursts from the unbearable pressures of her life, and so, Glaspell clearly displays the power and importance of human relationships. Therefore, through Mrs. Wright's kitchen, Glaspell symbolically implies how vital it is to reach out and befriend the lonely and disheartened.

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