“Trifles” by Susan Glaspell: Literary Analysis
Trifles is a piece written by Susan Glaspell in 1916 in the genre of the one-act play. The play explores the connections between husbands and wives, focusing on a murderous marriage. The play contains many symbols with specific meanings that enhance the contents of the play. Every symbol is related to the context of a scene it is seen in, yet contains a wider meaning applicable to the whole play.
The play’s script develops around the murder of John Wright who was choked with a rope. Two couples of husbands and wives arrive at the place and have to stay there. During their stay, the investigation goes on and it eventually is found out that the murderer was John’s wife, Minnie (Litcharts). The play is heavily concentrated on the symbols it contains as without understanding them it is hard to define what happened in terms of the meaning of certain events.
The Wright is the surname of Minnie Foster, the main character. “Wright” has a resemblance with “right,” and it refers to anything that must be acknowledged by others, as well as something that one may do or own. The use of the surname “Wright” as a surname indicates that the tale will be about right, as will the challenges that the protagonist faces in this drama. “Minnie” has a nearly identical sound to “mini,” which refers to something little or in the minority. “Foster” has the same sound as the word “force,” which denotes “power.” Minnie Foster’s name implies that the character lacks authority and feels herself to be a weak person.
Minnie rests in the rocking chair after murdering her husband. Minnie’s approach to staying relaxed and becoming as natural as she can is indicated by the rocking chair. It’s a place where Minnie can relax and enjoy herself, allowing her to disconnect from reality for a time. Minnie is seated in the rocking chair because it allows her to relax for a moment. She was terrified, so she attempted to act as naturally as possible by clutching her apron and pleating it while she rocked back and forth.
The cherry preserve had already cracked from the cold when the two women, Mrs. Peters and Mrs. Hale, discovered it. The cherry is a seasonal fruit that ripens in the spring. Its hue is red, exactly like Minnie’s attitude toward life as a little child, which was cheery and joyous. Minnie, like the cherry in the preserve, felt she could not do what she wanted once she married. The wall had cracked and fractured due to pressure and an extremely low temperature (Puspuritani 21). It looks just like Minnie. She preserved her secret so she could do what she pleased. She is obviously under duress, and the outcome is a break in Minnie’s heart as a result of her marriage’s coldness.
The quilt is composed of fabric patches that are sewn together to form an expanding square. The quilt isn’t finished yet in the drama. It represents Minnie’s fate; the patches of cloth represent every piece of information discovered, and it was through this that the ladies discovered Minnie’s murder. Minnie’s fate, like the unfinished quilt, is still up in the air.
Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters were seeking a piece of paper and string when they came across a broken birdcage. Mr. Wright’s attitude toward Minnie is symbolized by the birdcage; his coldness and harshness hinder Minnie from making friends and socializing with others. Minnie is like the bird caught in the cages herself as a result of this. She is unable to do anything she desires and must instead focus on cleaning. When the two women, Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters, initially discovered the birdcage, it was already shattered with no bird inside, as if someone had grabbed the bird forcefully and destroyed the cage. It alludes to what recently transpired in Minnie’s life, and how she was finally able to free herself from a cold and unforgiving spouse who treated her badly. The birdcage appears to be a jail built by John Wright for Minnie over many years.
Mrs. Hale discovered the bird had died. She failed to see that the bird perished not of natural causes, but rather as a result of someone breaking its neck. The body of the dead bird was placed in a lovely box and wrapped in silk. It implies that the bird is something precious to the owner and that the killer was not Minnie (Samman 73). Why would she wrap the dead bird in something as lovely as silk, one could wonder? It’s because the owner considers the dead bird to be a respectable object, and she wanted to offer it the final respect it deserved, so she presented it with beautiful silk and a lovely box.
After analyzing the symbolic contents of Trifles, it is clear that the issues emphasized by the author regard inequality. The main character Minnie suffers from the problems she faced because of her marriage, which is just an element of the whole system that works similarly.
“Trifles Symbols”. Litcharts.
Puspitarini, Diana. The hidden meanings seen from the symbols, characters and settings in Susan Glaspell’s Trifles. 2019. Universitas Sanata Dharma Yogyakarta.
Samman, Maram. “The Bird Imagery in Suzan Glaspell’s Trifles and Joseph Kramm’s the Shrike: A Feminist Comparative Study.” Critical Space, 2018.