Trapped Within a Cage
In the play “Trifles” by Susan Glaspell, the symbols of the unfinished quilt and the canary are used to polarize the perspective between the relationship of John Wright and Minnie Foster. The canary being the last resemblance of Minne’s freedom and identity which is stripped away by Mr. Wright due to his inability to recognize the relationship is one of oppression and displeasure ultimately leading to his death. The symbols illustrate blindness of the patriarchal society that suppressed females from aspirations and contentment can only be viewed through the perspective of another woman.
The symbolism represented by the unfinished quilt is one of oppression and control. The men within this play portray a sense of self-importance. The men present themselves as tough, serious-minded detectives, when in truth they are not nearly as observant as the female characters. Susan Glaspell uses a quilt as a symbol to further reinforce her argument. Before the murder of her husband occurred, Minnie was making a quilt. “Mrs. Hale notices that the quilt was a log cabin pattern (Glaspell, 164)”. The log cabin pattern is significant because it suggests a notion of restriction and emptiness due to the squares being enclosed and empty. There is no evidence that the cabin is warm and comfortable, so the quilt personifies the restriction and negativity in their marital relationship. This is also humorous and an important part of the story because Minnie is suspected to have used a knotted rope to kill her husband. As Mrs. Hale was asking her question, the men overhear her and laugh at her interest of whether or not the blanket “would be knotted or quilted.”(Glaspell 169) This pertains to the arrogant attitude of Mr. Wright reflecting the brash males of the time. At the very end of the play, the county attorney states that at least the women found that Minnie was not going to quilt it, and he asks the women what the correct term was. Mrs. Hale answers, "We call it - knot it" (Glaspell 171). Glaspell uses this black humor to end the play, underscoring the ambiguity of the knotting in the quilt and Minnie "knotting" her husband's neck.
The most significant symbol in the story that juxtapose to the unfinished quilt is the canary. The Canary represents Minnie’s well-being which symbolizes her desire for freedom. Minnie was in the choir in her younger years and others enjoyed her voice. Mrs. Hale went on to say that Mr. Wright "killed his wife's singing" (Glaspell 169). One could argue both ways as to who did this to the bird. Mr. Wright may have wrung the bird's neck just as he stifled his wife's singing, and this could be a motive for Minnie’s retaliation against him. Or, Minnie might have...