Trifles By Susan Glaspell Symbolism Essay Sample

For my english class I had to write an essay on Susan Glaspell's "Trifles". I was hoping you could edit it and tell me if I answered the question correctly, also I don't know if my conclusion is good enough. Any help would be great!!! Thank you!!

How is symbolism employed to establish and underscore the play's meaning?

Symbolism in Trifles

In Susan Glaspell's, "Trifles," symbolism is used to emphasize the meaning of the play. Glaspell writes of a woman who murdered her husband because he was to blame for her cold and lonely life. The women character's in the play, Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters, solve the murder, while the men, the county attorney and sheriff, wonder about trying to figure it out. Glaspell used symbolism as clues to the murderer's motive that only the women were able to figure out, and in turn kept the motive of the murderer a secret due to the bond of women.

One example of symbolism seen in the play is the assertion that Mrs. Wright was going to knot rather than quilt the patchwork quilt. At the end of the play the county attorney said to the sheriff, "Well, Henry, at least we found out that she was not going to quilt it. She was going to-what is it you call it, ladies?" (Glaspell 1300). Mrs. Hale replied, "We call it-knot it, Mr. Henderson," (Glaspell 1300). The ladies knew that Mrs. Wright killed her husband by tying a rope around his neck, but they weren't going to tell. Karen Alkalay-Gut stated, "This image conveys the sense of knotting the rope around the husband's neck: they have discovered the murderess. And they will 'knot' tell," (8). The women were not going to tell because, "The bond among the women is the essential knot," (Smith 179). This shows that the women solved the murder of who killed Mr. Wright, but were not going to tell because of the bond that they have with their fellow woman, Mrs. Wright.

Another example of symbolism was the dead canary and bird cage. As the women were gathering some of Mrs. Wright's things they discovered a bird cage with a broken door and no bird. They later find the bird in Mrs. Wright's sewing box neatly placed in silk with its neck broken. Mrs. Hale makes the relation of the bird to Mrs. Wright when she stated, "she was kind of like a bird herself-real sweet and pretty, but kind of timid and-fluttery," (Glaspell 1298). The canary was a substitute for children and it displaced the silence of the house. Alkalay-Gut stated that Mrs. Wright "understood her husband's action as a symbolic strangling of herself, his wife. It is not just because he killed the bird, but because she was a caged bird herself," (6). When the women found the bird, they realized that Mrs. Wright killed her husband because he prevented her from communicating with others. In a sense, by strangling the bird he strangled his wife. The women related the bird with Mrs. Wright and, in a sense, felt that Mr. Wright was the murderer for what he did to his wife.

The jar of cherries was another example of symbolism. When the men were going through the kitchen looking for evidence they came across Mrs. Wright's preserves that had frozen and gone bad. Later when the women were alone in the kitchen Mrs. Hale notices that there was one jar of cherries that were still good. The single intact jar of cherries, "symbolizes the one remaining secret, the motive to complete the prosecutor's case. Mrs. Wright stayed on the shelf, alone and unbefriended on the farm, until the coldness of her marriage, her life in general, broke apart," (Smith 175). This shows that Mrs. Wright's secrets burst from the pressure. She could no longer take living with Mr. Wright; she was too lonely and sad. The only people who came to understand this were the other women because of the female bond.

Symbolism was a key part to this short play. Glaspell used it throughout to show the bonding between the women. She used certain items that only the women could understand and relate to in order to exemplify female bonds. The men in the play didn't understand the jar of cherries or even notice the bird cage without a bird because, as Glaspell showed, the men don't think or notice the same things women do.

Works Cited

Alkalay-Gut, Karen. "Jury of Her Peers: The Importance of Trifles." Studies in Short Fiction 21 (Winter 1984): 1-9.
Glaspell, Susan. "Trifles." Literature: An Introduction to Reading and Writing. Ed. Edgar V. Roberts and Henry E. Jacobs. 8th Ed. Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall, 2007.

Makowsky, Veronica. Susan Glaspell's Century of American Women: A Critical Interpretation of Her Work. New York: Oxford UP, 1993.
Smith, Beverly A. "Women's Work-Trifles? The Skill and Insights of Playwright Susan Glaspell." International Journal of Women's Studies 5 (March 1982): 172-84.


I think you've done a good job discussing the symbolism in the play. I do have a few suggestions for you.

In Susan Glaspell's, "Trifles," symbolism is used to emphasize the meaning of the play. - This statement may be just a little too general, perhaps stating the obvious. Perhaps you could be more specific about what you mean by "the meaning of the play."

The women characters in the play, Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters, solve the murder, while the men, the county attorney and sheriff, wonder about trying to figure it out. - never use an apostrophe to make a word plural.

there was one jar of cherries that was still good. - The subject is "jar"; the jar was...

Good work!



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.

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