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lie to Minnie is also the first clear example of these women’s connection with another woman-in-need to the point of working against the concerns or preferences of their husbands. By the end of the play, Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters actively attempt to protect Minnie by concealing the
evidence against her. Their instinct to protect her against the men who have judged her is first shown in their agreement to lie to her about her canning jars.The Dirty TowelThis is one of many out-of-place objects inMinnie’s kitchen that causeGeorge Hendersonto accuse her of being a poor housekeeper. The disarray of Minnie’s kitchen demonstrates a distressed mind and that Minnie’s act of killing her husband was more emotional and dramatic than her demeanor indicates. In addition, the mess in the kitchen symbolizes the ways in which the men in this play expect women to fulfill certain gender roles. Minnie, notJohn, is held responsible for the state of the house and is seen as unfit for her role of wife, as a result. It is precisely this sort of judgment, and the fact that the men are so comfortable in judging women, that isolates Minnie in the first place.The QuiltMrs. Haleand Mrs. Petersdecide to bring the quilt to Minnie in jail, another one of the triflesthat 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 Hendersonasking 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 thatMinnie 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 Dead BirdThe strangled songbird thatMrs. HaleandMrs. Petersdiscover explains the motivation behindMinnie Wright’s crime, but also symbolizesJohn 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 crueland brutal way.