Forget the Bird, What's the Cage Singing About?

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MRS. PETERS: (Examining the cage) Why, look at this door.  It's broke. One hinge is pulled apart.

MRS. HALE: Looks as if someone must have been rough with it. (Roberts, 397)


The aforementioned conversation takes place immediately before the women start to put together what may have happened prior to Wright's murder.  One wonders, though, why add the detail of a broken door?  Finding the dead bird would be more than enough evidence for the women to puzzle out what happened.  Obviously, the broken cage door adds a more vivid image of violence to the unwitnessed scene.  We can imagine Mr. Wright cursing at the singing bird as he ripped open the cage; we can hear Mrs. Wright's cry of alarm, mingling with the rattling metal of the habitat; and we can picture the angry energy carrying over into an enraged exit by Mr. Wright, an exit that would leave Mrs. Wright staring numbly at the still quivering bars in shocked silence.  Maybe, for a second, she would have been too stunned to even register that her bird was dead; perhaps before her mind caught up to her eyes, she would have only known the lesser horror of it all: The cage was broken.

Yes, the cage was broken; the boundaries that surrounded the canary, that kept it from the skies and allowed it only its own quiet song, were now bent.  Just as whatever loyalty was keeping Mrs. Wright in her own cage was bent.  Though Mrs. Wright had supposedly contented herself to live quietly, sewing quilts and biting back songs, something happened that pulled apart a hinge.  The small morsel of her former self Mrs. Wright had kept for comfort, her song, had been taken from her.  Mr. Wright attempted to kill the one bit of self that Mrs. Wright had preserved (also symbolizing this one piece of self is the single jar of fruit that survived the cold, mentioned on page 400), and that was the act of violence that tore the cage door.  With the cage door broken, Mrs. Wright found herself free, and used this freedom to take literal revenge for her own figurative death.       


Jessica Orlowski said:

Thank you for filling in the missing details concerning the death of the bird. It seems as though, when the bird dies, a little piece of Mrs. Wright dies, too. I found your title very interesting, though, Josie. If I ask you what it means will you pull a Robert Frost? :)

Melissa Schwenk said:

I hadn’t even thought about the possibility of what the bent door on the cage meant. However, your explanation as to why it was so important and hinged on her sanity has won me over in glorifying her actions behind killing Mr. Wright. Since she obviously needed to come out on top or risk being continually trapped inside of herself, Mrs. Wright does the right thing by taking back her life.

Cody Naylor said:

I love that you noticed this. I completely agree with your unhinged, broken cage door metaphor. I wrote about how I thought that there were a lot of undertones of feminism in the play, and I think that your unhinged metaphor is something that I probably should've examined in my own blog.

Josie Rush said:

Jessica- I would never pull a Robert Frost on you. lol. I was just referring to the symbolism of the cage. Like, it's a given the bird represents Mrs. Wright, but what is the cage telling us? To me, the cage was just as important as the bird as a symbol, because the cage attempts to justify Mrs. Wright's actions.
Melissa- I'm still grinning over the "*hinged* on her sanity" pun, intentional or not.
Cody-I think there is so much going on in this play, that examining everything is impossible. I read your blog, and really enjoyed the exploration of early feminism.

Kayla Lesko said:

You put my close reading skills to shame.

Carissa Altizer said:

I think your explanation was thought out and well written. Mrs. Wright's figurative cage mingling with her loyalty to be a meak, quiet housewife make an excellent point.

Aja Hannah said:

Very descriptive addition to the play. When they discussed the cage, I wanted to learn so much more about it until they got to the bird and I kind of forgot the cage and just tagged it in my mind as important.

JessicaOrlowski said:

Yep, I understand now. The cage was a crucial component of her life- a tangible symbol of how she was feeling inside!

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