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“Lamb to Slaughter” by Roald Dahl and “A Jury of Her Peers” by Susan Glaspell are stories revolving two murderous women, Mary Maloney and Mrs. Wright (Minnie Foster), who murder their husbands under different circumstances. While the two women and guilty the authors manage to exhibit them as “scared, venerable wives” in the stories. The exhibition makes the elusive to the justice system defending them against their respective murders with the excuse of the evils of a patriarch society. Mary and Mrs. Wright characterization, settings, style and circumstances are built around gender stereotypical roles and skewed idea of justice which make them elusive as well as presenting them as victims rather than homicidal maniacs.
Both women, Mary and Mrs. Wright, are confined by their patriarchal societies into domestic roles. Mary is a housewife who waits for her husband to arrive at 5 pm every work day, cook for him, sits to sew, and focuses on making her husband comfortable. Despite being heavily pregnant, Mary is always busy serving her husband, Patrick Maloney. Similarly, Mrs. Wright is a housekeeper and knits, her husband. Mr. Wright is allegedly hard to live and abusive “Although she has been often referred to as disturbed and abused, there has been little speculation about the nature of her mental condition or the types of abusive behaviors that she experienced in her marriage” (Glaspell). The examples of chores, abuse and submissive nature of the women in the stories reveal their domesticity and male chauvinism. They were reduced to mere domestic servants without an opportunity of pursuing professional careers. Denial for self-development is weighing which may pass as a sympathetic issue to explain/justify them as victims.
Moreover, Mary and Mrs. Wright are able to become elusive to the male-dominated jury/ justice system. After hitting her husband with an ice-cold leg of a lamb with the impact of a steel club, Mary destroys all evidence by convincing the investigating officer to eat the lamb, the weapon of murder after an officer states “Get the weapon, and you’ve got the man”. Ultimately, the men are not able to stitch the evidence together as they destroy it themselves. In Susan Glaspell’s story, Mr. Wright killing is obvious; she is detained under the assumption of being insane with no evidence to prove Mrs. Wright motive towards the murder. Nonetheless, she leaves traces of evidence in her uncoordinated sewing, empty cage and bird’s remains which only the women investigators are able to recognize. The women figure that the men jury would laugh at the evidence and disregard it, they also decide to save their own by keeping the evidence a secret. In both stories, male investigators see the surface things and are ignorant of essential details; this makes them overlook the guiltiness of the women murderous. As a result, the women are able to cheat the male-dominated justice system.
Mary and Mrs. Wright contrast in their motive to kill and the idea of justice. On one side, Mary kills her husband for asking for a divorce. She seems like there is nothing to lose as she already lost everything she had built with him to another woman “…She knew quite well what the penalty would be. That was fine. It made no difference to her”. Nonetheless, Mary was concerned that the consequence, a death penalty would affect even her unborn child and cleans up the evidence to serve justice to her innocent child. In a patriarch society, a pregnant woman without a husband would be despised. Again, the news may have caused a hormonal rush making her snap for the kill. These circumstances set may evoke the reader to sympathize with Mary. On the other hand, according to Mrs. Hale, Mrs. Wright had lived in an oppressive marriage, “I don’t think a place would be any the cheerfuller for John Wright’s bein’ in it” (Glaspell). When Mr. Wright killed her bird, her only companion she snapped and killed him. Though not justified, Mrs. Wright killing may be a way to seek justice for her pet’s killing and oppressive conditions.
Conclusively, Mary and Mrs. Wrights compare in their domesticity, the stereotypical roles of the women present them as victims of the society evoking sympathy even when they attack their husbands. Mary and Mrs. Wright are also able to manipulate evidence in a manner that male jury and investigators are unable to understand making them elusive to the justice system. Lastly, the women contrast in their motive and idealism of justice. While Mary destroys evidence to protect and seek justice for her innocent unborn child, Mrs. Wright motives are to free from oppressive marriage. Their motives present a perfect basis to justify their deeds.
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