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Women’s suffrage was alive at the time of “A Jury Of Her Peers” by Susan Glasspell. Women were parading outside the White House with signs asking President Woodrow Wilson “Mr.President What Will You Do For Women’s Suffrage?”. “A Jury Of Her Peers” is believed to be a fictionalized account of a real life court drama that Glasspell covered as a reporter for the Des Moines Daily News where a housewife was accused of murdering her husband in his sleep. The wife was convicted in the first trial and overturned by a Supreme Court ruling. Susan Glaspell, in her short story “A Jury Of Her Peers” uses gender roles to demonstrate womens powers in a murder mystery and examine the change in outcome if the accused had a jury of individuals just like her.
Mr. Peters is the sheriff and Mr. Henderson is the county attorney and Mr. Hale, a witness gathered their wives Mrs. Peters and Mrs.Hale . Mr. Hale is the neighbor that found Mr.Wright dead lying in bed. Mrs. Peters as the sheriff’s wife has been given responsibility to gather personal items to take to Mrs. Wright who is being held in jail. Mrs. Hale is asked to join the group by default as being a woman available to accompany Mrs. Peters. As the group travels to the homestead it is noted that the women are riding in the back of the buggy. This combined with the sheriff’s comment of his wife “getting scary” sets the tone of men being dominant to women. The homestead is described as a “lonesome looking place” with everyone cautious when walking up to the home. In the next lines the landscape around the house is repeatedly described as lonely. Use of lonely has been attributed as a feminine description (Hedges, 93). Throughout the story formal names are used except when referencing Mrs. Wright, she is informal as Minnie. The familiarity of her first name makes her closer to the reader. When they arrive at the house, the county attorney asks Mr. Hale “what happened when he found Mr. Wright?”. Mr. Hale stated that he was taking potatoes to the market when he was passing the Wrights he wanted approach Mr. Wright regarding purchasing a telephone line together. He added that he had previously asked Mr. Wright who had declined. Mr. Hale walked up to the house and found Mrs. Wright looking “queer” and told him that Mr. Wright was upstairs. That was when Mr.Hale found Mr.Wright lying in his bed strangled to death. Mr. Hale’s initial recounting was sympathetic to Mrs. Wright, but with comments from the sheriff and the county attorney, his story alters to match the opinion of his peers.
The men look around the kitchen and can tell that Minnie “lacked homesteading instinct” (Hedges 95), but the women disagree. Mrs. Hales stood up for her friend that she has known since they were very young and they sang in the choir together. The women are ignored by the men when mentioning that the kitchen had stuff wrong with it in every direction. The men start in other areas of the house while the women begin to notice the details of the kitchen. The messy fruit the men made fun of was a result of the room freezing overnight. The stove was not lit to keep the room above freezing until the sheriff was expected to examine the house. The dirty towel by the sink a result of the deputy wiping his hands from lighting the stove. The county attorney kicked dishes that were stacked for washing. Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters began to sympathize with Minnie and the actions of the men anger them and shift their perspective of what motivation could cause a murder.
The men look in other areas of the house for what the killer used. The women play the part smart and look in the main place Minnie would have been everyday. Mrs. Peters and Mrs. Hale become concerned as they find evidence that they will be damaging for Minnie. They discover Minnie’s quilting, which upon return to downstairs the men belittle comments. By dismissing something trivial as quilting the men miss that the quilt sewing has changed indicating a women in distress. Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters immediately know something is wrong and pull out the threads and she redid the sewing so that if the men are smart enough to look at it they will not notice.
Mrs. Hale mentioned how Mr. Wright was a very plain stubborn and controlling and violent man. After mentioning information to Mrs. Peters about Mr. Wright the bird cage with no bird was noticed. Mrs.Hale mentioned a man that came by selling canaries. The birdcage is symbolic of the kind of environment that Minnie has been in. There was no phone in the house, she stayed inside all day doing chores and her husband came home to demand and not realize everything she has done for him. The two women examine the birdcage and see how damaged it is. The door was broke when the two women swung it open. The women were confused at first and thought she had a cat, but there was no cat to be seen. The two women sat there and looked at each other thinking about Minnie. The women discussed how they thought Minnie was like a bird “she was kind of like a bird herself. Real sweet and pretty”. Mrs. Peters mentioned how she wondered what happened to Minnie, and what made Minnie flip out. The Women look in to her sewing bag and find a box wrapped in ribbon that usually would hold the sewing scissors. Instead it contained the dead canary that shocked both of the women. The bird in the cage is significant, because it symbolizes the relationship between Minnie and Mr.Wright. The canary had been strangled to death by something very strong and violent like Mr. Wright. Minnie felt that she had lost a companionship and she felt she had nothing else to do with her life. Minnie decided to free herself from the cage she called home for so long by murdering her husband Mr. Wright.
Mrs. Peters and Mrs.Hale realize what they have just figured out. The two women firgured out the murder mystery that the men have not even found a motive to what happened to the murder. Mrs. Peters and Mrs. Hale have empathy for Minnie. All of the struggle that Minnie has had to live with for the time of being married to Mr. Wright. Mrs. Hale remembering how sweet and kind Minnie was when they were younger and sang in the choir together. That is part of the reason why the two women cover up for Minnie, because of the sense of unity or sisterhood for women.
Susan Glaspell, in her short story “A Jury Of Her Peers” uses gender roles to demonstrate womens powers in a murder mystery and examine the change in outcome if the accused had a jury of individuals just like her. Women that were suffering from the rights that they did not have at the time were tired of it. The gender roles played in “A Jury Of Her Peers” by Susan Glasspell give a great example for the reader to understand the hardship women had to go through at these times. Susan does a good job of showing the mental abuse and general disregard by a male dominated society. Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters and Minnie all took abuse from the men. Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters were ignored by the men with their ideas about the murder when the women were the only chance the men had to finding a clue to what exactly happened in the Wright house. Understanding that Minnie would not get a fair trial by men, Mrs. Peters and Mrs. Hale acted as her jury.
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