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Susan Glaspell, an author of the 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's 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.

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The Symbolism of a Bird in Trifles

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.

What Does Canary Symbolism in Trifles?

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 in the end, killed her husband in pursuit of freedom.

What Does the Birdcage Symbolize in Trifles?

Thus, a bird in the play “Trifles” symbolizes Mrs. Wright, her sweet and friendly character before the changes caused by an unhappy marriage. The bird could be also a symbol of Minnie’s unborn children that she could devote all her love and care 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 an extremely high price for the desired freedom.

The Importance of Deception within Trifles

Apart from the evident problems of justice and law, the author portrayed the reality through the prism of the relationships between men and women that are usually ambiguous and deceptive in nature. Although the play encompasses a wide range of themes and motifs, one should bear in mind that Glaspell managed to call the reader's attention to the prevailing importance of deception within the lines of her masterpiece. However, the matter of deception has an indirect profound representation in the play.

"Trifles" begins with the stage directions that have proper functional characteristics in the text of the play. In the beginning, the potential reader confronts the "abandoned farmhouse of John Wright". Such an atmosphere creates the suspense of possible accidents that might have occurred in the house. In addition, the settings evoke an emotional response of anxiety towards the characters. Only then, the reader comes to realize the significance of deception in the play.

Obviously, apart from the settings, Glaspell's stage directions present the main characters, or the intruders into the mysterious atmosphere of the house: Sheriff, Attorney, Hale, Sheriff's wife, Mrs. Hale, and Mrs. Peters. Even though the play is difficult to perceive, their clues become crucial in understanding the plot and creating the first impression of Glaspell's creative writing.

In Glaspell's interpretation, the problem of deception brings into focus the key aspect of the relationships between men and women. Although the play is rather short, the main characters are well developed. It is noticeable from the clues that men and women possessed conflicting views on the matter of examining the place of crime.

The most vivid example of deception concerns the women's reluctance to show the trifles to the men. It is due to the reason that male characters considered it ridiculous to pay attention to the findings of their wives. Undoubtedly, Mr. Henderson and Mr. Peters, the attorney and the sheriff respectively, despised women for their growing interest in minor things, such as the quilt, the apron, the fruit, etc.

Susan Glaspell portrayed the main characters in the light of the event that occurred in the farmhouse the mysterious murder of John Wright. The matter of deception exists within the borders of this crime as well as within the nature of relationships. John Wright's wife, who was actually believed to be the murderer, lived the life of a woman who was not understood by her husband.

That is why the female characters decided to hide the evidence from their husbands, the dead canary in particular so that they could not prove the guilt of Minnie Wright and find the potential motive of the murder.

Not surprisingly, raising feministic views on the matter, Glaspell held a supportive position towards the female characters and put an emphasis on the drawbacks of men's mobility. She provided the reader with feelings of empathy towards the women. The most striking point that Glaspell criticized concerns Lewis Hales's claim: "Women are used to worrying over trifles".

Chiefly, it is clear from the above that deception plays an important role in "Trifles". Seemingly, it deals with the gender differences in marriage and the particular attitude that the characters possessed towards each other in the play. In "Trifles", deception should embody the potential consequences for the investigators of the crime as their foregone conclusions were not objective.

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Trifles Reader Response Sample

It was a time of the Women's Liberation Movement, which struggled for their rights. Susan Glaspell was one of the writers who described this situation in her works. "Trifles" is the play, which uncovers the problem of women's place in the male society.

Thus, the author speaks about several problems concerning men's attitude towards women. First of all, the men fail to see the clues that Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters discover. The reason for such men's behavior traces back to the social situation in America when patriarchal society was the leading one. As the author describes this very situation, men characters possess traits, which are peculiar to such social situations. Men consider themselves as very clever and superior to women, thinking that women can be useful nowhere except the kitchen and are not able to make any decisions.

Such superior position of men is transmitted by the author with the help of men's conversations and actions, which is the first thing showing the reader their attitudes toward women. From the very beginning, the reader understands that men do not care about women. It becomes obvious after the first county attorney's proposal women refused to come up to the fire and men have not proposed them to come up again and left them standing near the door. As it was stated above, men consider that women cannot be serious: "Well, women are used to worrying over trifles" (Glaspell 6).

They do not believe that women can act according to the situation, saying "They wonder if she was going to quilt it or just knot it!" (Glaspell 9) while men were trying to discover how the murder was committed. One more phrase, which can prove this point of view, is "Well, can you beat the women! Held for murder and worrying' about her preserves" (Glaspell 6). Moreover, almost all their retorts are accompanied by laughter or irony, which makes women feel embarrassing: "The men laugh, the women look abashed" (Glaspell 9).

The next way the author uses to show the relationships between men and women is their location on the stage. As it has been said earlier, women were staying near the door and men were near the fire. Such a location shows that men are superior to women and women play a secondary role in society.

While men were discussing Mr. Wright's murder by the fire, women had nothing to do, but to stand silently. Women are described as the shadows of their men. They are always behind them and they follow men everywhere but have no right to speak or pretend to make their own decisions.

Such a social situation, which is truthfully described in the play, has influenced the men's assumptions about women. Men characters arrive at a conclusion that women always worry over trifles; consequently, they reckon women as unserious. They also think that a woman must be a good housekeeper and always have the house in order, so when the county attorney saw dirty towels and a lot of pans under the sink, his speech became full of sarcasm: "Not much of a housekeeper, would you say, ladies?" (Glaspell 6).

Female characters try to be independent; that is why they challenge men's assumptions. It is understandable even from the words of the county attorney: "Ah, loyal to your sex, I see" (Glaspell 6). Women try to be the unified whole and to support each other. They are angry with men who try to hurt them: "I'd hate to have men coming into my kitchen, snooping around and criticizing" (Glaspell 7). Moreover, to remonstrate against such assumptions, women decide to hide evidence in order to help Mrs. Wright.

Susan Glaspell's play "Trifles" is a bright example of the representation of the American society at the beginning of the XIX century. It fully transfers the problem of women's place in society, their desire to become independent, and their struggle for freedom.

Code: writers15

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