Jury of Her Peers
Near the story’s ending, the women decide to conceal male investigators of their influential findings after agreeing that Minnie Foster is a victim rather than a culprit. Caused by the women’s ability to sympathize with Mrs. Wright, the women make the controversial yet justified decision of not exposing the true story behind the murder of Mr. Wright. Glaspell embodies Mrs. Wright as a victim at various points through the story by depicting the male gender as belittling and irreverent. Portraying these qualities through the characters of Mr.
Hale, Mr. Peters, and the county attorney, Glaspell displays how men were often dismissive of women during the time period of this story. This is demonstrated in the text when Mr. Hale makes the comment “But would the women know a clue if they did come upon it? ” (10). The attitude that the men show towards the women is a perfect example of how it was typical for a man to belittle the female gender during the time frame of the story. Ironically, it turns out that the women are the only ones who discover any clues for solving the case.
Glaspell also presents the idea that women’s work was unappreciated by the male gender. While inspecting the dirty kitchen of the Wright’s home Mr. Henderson states “Dirty towels! Not much of a housekeeper, would you say, ladies? ” (9). Being completely oblivious to what Mrs. Wright might have been dealing with at the time, Mr. Henderson makes a disrespectful comment that demonstrates the men’s insensitivity. This attitude that the men convey can be seen as a reflection of the way males treated women during this time period and also prompts the further analysis of the marriage between Mrs.
Wright and Mr. Wright. One of the essential methods Glaspell uses to represent Minnie Foster as a suspect is through mentioning evidences of marital oppression between Mrs. Wright and Mr. Wright. Through the inferences of Mrs. Hale, readers are able to tell that life at home was not ideal in the Wright home. Mrs. Peters speaks about a Minnie Foster of the past that was jubilant and filled with life, “‘She, come to think of it, she was kind of like a bird herself. Real sweet and pretty, but kind of timid and fluttery. How she did change’” (19).
Within the dialogue between Mrs. Peters and Mrs. Hale, readers create an image of a young Minnie Foster singing and parading around town, one that deeply contrasts the feeble image of Mrs. Wright sitting on a rocking chair, the first visual presented to readers. Although nonexistent when analyzing at the surface, the killing of the canary contains complex symbolic meanings. Mrs. Hale speaks of these hidden meanings when pondering the discovery of a dead canary, “‘No, Wright wouldn’t like the bird,’ she said after that ‘A thing that sang. She used to sing.
He killed that too. ’ Mrs. Peters moved uneasily. ‘Of course we don’t know who killed the bird. ’ ‘I knew John Wright’ was Mrs. Hale’s answer” (22). Just as John Wright had strangled the canary and killed its voice, he essentially did the same to Minnie Foster. The bird is meant to be symbolic, while Mr. Wright was not guilty of human homicide, he was the murderer of the bird, which in essence represents Minnie Foster. Portraying Mrs. Wright as a victim through evidences of marital oppression, Glaspell provides many strong reasons to explain why Mrs. Hale and Mrs.
Peters sympathize with Minnie Foster. Glaspell exemplifies Mrs. Wright as a victim throughout the story by exhibiting the sympathy Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Wright have for Minnie Foster. As the story progresses, Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters both show signs of sympathy towards Mrs. Wright and the situation she was in leading up to the murder of Mr. Wright. One of the essential factors causing the women to sympathize with Mrs. revolved around the killing of the canary bird. As the women speculate the significance of the dead canary, each connects the bird with her own experience.
For Mrs. Peters, the stillness of the canary evokes memories of the time she and her husband lived in the northern plains. She relates to Minnie and states, “I know what stillness is. When we homesteaded in Dakota, and my first baby died, after he was two years old” (21). Mrs. Peters recalls the moments after the death of her first child, in which there was nobody around her to comfort and console her. Being Minnie’s neighbor, Mrs. Hale also understands the loneliness and desolation of life on a prairie.
She knew that Minnie used to enjoy an active and joyful lifestyle and realized how that all faded once she settled down with Mr. Wright. Mrs. Hale also knew Minnie sang in the choir, an activity that Mr. Wright put a stop to, just as he put a stop to the bird’s singing. Mrs. Hale felt that the bird was not only a thing of beauty, but also a companion for a lonesome wife. By connecting on the personal level through past personal experiences, Mrs. Wright and Mrs. Hale proceed to sympathize with Mrs. Wright that ultimately leads them concealing their significant discoveries.
At the end of reading Glaspell’s “A Jury of Her Peers,” the reader is faced with a difficult judgment over the morality of the women hiding the evidence. One must ask the question, was Mrs. Wright justified in taking the life of her husband? Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters had to make that same decision but rather in a short amount of time and were faced with the pressure of three investigating men. Forced to make a crucial decision in the matter of minutes, Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters instinctively make the justified decision of concealing the evidence and spur controversy over the morality of their choice.