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The Metaphorical Canary in “Trifles” by Susan Glaspell Essay

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Updated: Oct 1st, 2021

“Trifles,” by Susan Glaspell, is a story about how a woman breaks down emotionally at the death of her husband. However, from the story itself, we come to know that both Mr. and Mrs. Wright never had a healthy relationship. Mr. Wright’s company for his wife was like that of “a raw wind that gets to the bone.” (Glaspell, 1916) Actually, for Mrs. Wright, the canary bird meant a lot as she had no children or anyone else. Henceforth if it is considered that she killed the bird or even her husband, then it is too difficult to accept. From the story, we know that she is very cold and has not very much activity to do for her. Being such a kind of woman murdering is beyond any thoughts. However, the existence of the canary is itself a mystery as no one can guarantee that anyone has actually seen the bird at all. Thus, the canary appears to be a metaphor for the inner-self of Mrs. Wright.

The empty cage can well signify the nature of aloofness that occupied the mind of Mrs. Wright in the absence of any children. Mrs. Hale stated, “Not having children does less work–but it makes a quiet house, and Wright out to work all day, and no company when he did come in.” (Glaspell, 1916) Thus, she was alone, and in her deep melancholy, she uses to find herself extremely alone in the world with no one to care for her or her to care for. The relation with her husband was cold. Therefore, the only person who could provide her with solace in this condition was absent from her emotional self. This made her aligned with the canary cage that could have a dweller but never had one.

Mrs. Hale never saw the bird. She only assumed that there was a bird in the cage. According to her, “Why, I don’t know whether she did or not–I’ve not been here for so long. There was a man around last year selling canaries cheap, but I don’t know as she took one; maybe she did. She used to sing real pretty herself.” (Glaspell, 1916) That assumption was the maximum evidence possible in order to establish the existence of the bird.

As a bird, the canary is associated with joy and brightness. The predominant yellow signifies life in its most vibrant form. The light of the sun and the warmth within is also yellow, as often seen on the canvas of Van Gough. This light and warmth were missing from the life of Mrs. Wright. Nevertheless, as light is important for life, so is warmth. Mrs. Wright had none. So, she placed an empty cage and deemed it to be the cage of a vibrant, lively bird. This is an existence that she longed for thus complemented the melancholy through imagination.

In conclusion, it should be stated that the author presented the play in an apparent ‘who done it’ mode, but the main significance of the play is the basic theme presented in it. This theme is the loneliness and lifelessness of a woman and her struggle of coming out of this loveless situation. This entire scenario is well formulated in the form of the canary and its empty cage. The canary is a metaphor by itself, and it symbolized the empty existence of Mrs. Wright.

References

Glaspell, Susan; (1916); “Trifles”; Web.

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IvyPanda. "The Metaphorical Canary in "Trifles" by Susan Glaspell." October 1, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-metaphorical-canary-in-trifles-by-susan-glaspell/.

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IvyPanda. 2021. "The Metaphorical Canary in "Trifles" by Susan Glaspell." October 1, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-metaphorical-canary-in-trifles-by-susan-glaspell/.

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IvyPanda. (2021) 'The Metaphorical Canary in "Trifles" by Susan Glaspell'. 1 October.

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