Susan Glaspell

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The Dead Bird Symbol Analysis

The Dead Bird Symbol Icon
The strangled songbird that Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters discover explains the motivation behind Minnie Wright’s crime, but also symbolizes John Wright’s abusive treatment of his wife. Minnie is linked to the bird through Mrs. Hale’s memory of her as a young unmarried woman who liked to sing. Like the dead bird, Minnie was once bright and filled with life, but this energy and vitality was strangled out of her by life with John Wright, by her married life caught in a patriarchal society living with a hard man (a fact the other women understand because they experience the same thing, though to a lesser extent). The bird also symbolizes Minnie’s need for companionship in her childless home, and the death of the bird showed that John not only didn’t acknowledge this need but actually removed her remaining source of happiness in a cruel and brutal way.

The Dead Bird Quotes in Trifles

The Trifles quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Dead Bird. 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 numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Baker's Plays edition of Trifles published in 1951.
Trifles Quotes

“When I was a girl—my kitten—there was a boy took a hatchet, and before my eyes—and before I could get there—[Covers her face an instant] If they hadn’t held me back I would have—[Catches herself, looks upstairs where steps are heard, falters weakly]—hurt him.”

Related Characters: Mrs. Peters (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Dead Bird
Page Number: 19
Explanation and Analysis:
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The Dead Bird Symbol Timeline in Trifles

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Dead Bird appears in Trifles. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Social Oppression of Women Theme Icon
...Hale notices a fancy red box, opens it, and the women discover the body of the dead bird . (full context)
Gender Allegiance vs. Legal Duty Theme Icon
The dead bird ’s neck is twisted and the women realize that someone must have wrung its neck.... (full context)
Gender Allegiance vs. Legal Duty Theme Icon
...hurt him if she could. Mrs. Hale says she knows John Wright must have killed the dead bird . Mrs. Peters, growing emotional, tries insisting that they don’t know who killed John Wright.... (full context)
Gender Allegiance vs. Legal Duty Theme Icon
Justice Theme Icon
The men leave the room momentarily and Mrs. Peters tries to hide the box with the dead bird in her too small bag and then Mrs. Hale conceals it in her pocket. The... (full context)