Trifles

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The Quilt Symbol Icon
Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters decide to bring the quilt to Minnie in jail, another one of the trifles that the men believe only concern women. The quilt and Minnie’s decision to finish it in one of two styles—quilting or knotting—is developed as a metaphor for her innocence or her guilt. The act of knotting a quilt is linked to the act of killing a man with a rope around his neck. The play ends with George Henderson asking the women how Minnie was going to finish the quilt. Mrs. Hale’s certainty that she was going to “knot it” symbolizes the women’s certainty that Minnie killed her husband. Meanwhile, the men, blinded by their arrogant inability to see the women’s interest as anything but trifles, don’t catch this significance at all and still think Mrs. Hale is talking about a quilt.

The Quilt Quotes in Trifles

The Trifles quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Quilt. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Social Oppression of Women Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Baker's Plays edition of Trifles published in 1951.
Trifles Quotes

“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?”
“We call it—knot it, Mr. Henderson.”

Related Characters: George Henderson (speaker), Mrs. Hale (speaker), Minnie Wright
Related Symbols: The Quilt
Page Number: 21
Explanation and Analysis:

During this loaded resolution to the play, Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters have concealed the dead bird that shows Minnie's Wright's motive for killing her husband. The quilt, too, shows evidence of her emotional distress in its poor stitching. The women have already discussed whether Minnie was planning to sew the quilt or knot the quilt to complete it. These two techniques take on metaphorical resonance because to "knot it" sounds like the tying of ropes, and Mr. Wright was strangled with a rope. In a subtle way, the women are revealing the truth of what happened and their knowledge of it by saying Minnie Wright was planning to "knot it." In other words, they know she killed her husband with a rope around his neck. 

Notably, this question and answer are only metaphorical in the minds of the women, and George Henderson asks the question in complete naïveté. He is again mocking the women for their concern with something as trivial as the making of a quilt when there is a murder mystery to be solved. Yet it is ironic that the women have solved the mystery by paying attention to such "trifles." The question Henderson asks is exactly the right one, and he asks it of the people with the most information, but he asks it with what the reader can imagine to be a mocking and sarcastic tone. He doesn't care about Minnie Wright's quilting process--but he should. The men have the answer to the murder mystery at their fingertips, but overlook it because women's concerns seem unimportant to them. 

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The Quilt Symbol Timeline in Trifles

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Quilt appears in Trifles. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Trifles
Social Oppression of Women Theme Icon
The Blindness of Men Theme Icon
Gender Allegiance vs. Legal Duty Theme Icon
The women discover a quilt that Minnie Wright was in the process of making. The men reenter and, overhearing Mrs.... (full context)
Gender Allegiance vs. Legal Duty Theme Icon
...The men return and Mrs. Hale hides the box containing the dead bird under the quilt. George Henderson asks if they’ve decided whether Minnie was going to quilt or knot her... (full context)
Gender Allegiance vs. Legal Duty Theme Icon
Justice Theme Icon
...and jokingly acknowledges that at least they found out Minnie wasn’t going to finish her quilt by quilting it. He appeals to the ladies for the correct term for she was... (full context)