A symbol is something that represents something else. A symbol can be an object, words, an action, a song, a person, or anything that seems to be one thing but also has another meaning. In Susan Glaspell’s Trifles, there are several symbols that help the audience to understand what Mrs. Wright’s life was like, what the men think of women, and what the women think of the situation.
The first symbol is the “kitchen things” that the men refer to when they visit the Wright house. The reference to the “kitchen things” shows that the men do not find any of the items Mrs. Wright used on a day-to day basis to be helpful or useful in investigating the murder of Mr. Wright. This reference symbolizes the idea that the men do not value women or their contributions to the home.
Another symbol in this play is the dead bird. The women find the empty birdcage, and then the dead bird. It appears that the bird had been strangled, and it is assumed that Mr. Wright had grown annoyed by the bird’s singing and had strangled it. The bird symbolizes Mrs. Wright herself, because it is implied that her marriage to Mr. Wright had “strangled” her and killed the person she used to be.
The third symbol in Trifles is the action of Mrs. Hale putting the dead bird in her pocket to hide it from the men. This shows solidarity between the women in protecting Mrs. Wright’s privacy. The women sympathize with Mrs. Wright’s anguish in her marriage. They both know that the men would not understand what the bird means and may just use it against Mrs. Wright.
The three symbols discussed in this essay helped to paint a picture in the story and show us more than the dialogue does. The audience has a greater understanding of Mrs. Wright and why she may have murdered her husband. We also get a deeper appreciation of how women can feel taken for granted and under appreciated by their husbands. The women in the play are smart enough to understand the symbolism of what their husbands thought to be “trifles,” and as a result they learn more about the crime and the circumstances surrounding it than the men do.