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What is the main theme in the story " A Jury of Her Peers"?

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chardewise | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted September 12, 2010 at 2:09 AM via web

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What is the main theme in the story " A Jury of Her Peers"?

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Michelle Ossa | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

Posted September 12, 2010 at 2:35 AM (Answer #1)

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Out of the many different themes present in the story, the one from which all stem is the repression brought by social expectations due to imposed gender roles. Just like in the first-published one-act play Trifles, the female characters in A Jury of her Peerswere women who were socially thought of as second -class citizens. Minnie was a woman that was psychologically and presumably physically battered. Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters were wives whose husbands forbade from giving input or opinions that would in any case agree with Minnie's actions against her husband. Moreover they even criticize Minnie's house for not being tidy enough  for many other things that, in the men's opinion, did not render Minnie as a good enough wife. They did not once pondered upon what may have made this woman lose so much of herself.

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susan3smith | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator

Posted September 12, 2010 at 8:31 AM (Answer #2)

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One theme that this story supports is the idea of the importance of having one's own peers act as judges.  The women of the story, because they are women, have a deeper understanding of Minnie's motivations for murdering her husband than the men of the town.  After conducting their own investigation which involves noticing Minnie's uneven stitching and her dead canary, the women realize that she was trapped in a miserable marriage with a man who abused her.  The women hide the evidence that might lead the men to convict her of murder, because they believe that even though she probably killed her husband that she herself did not deserve to be punished.  So the women in the town act as both judge and jury in their own private way.

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted September 12, 2010 at 5:57 PM (Answer #3)

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I would say that one of the major themes in the play is how voices on the outside can actually be useful to all of our narratives.  The women in the play are discredited and marginalized as not having anything worthwhile in contributing to the crime.  Yet, it is through their own insight that the case is solved.  At each step of their understanding of the crime, the patriarchal male establishment attempts to further malign them and silence them.  By the end of the play, one of the resounding messages is that those who have been marginalized can incorporate worthwhile thoughts to the discourse that envelops all of us.  It is a strong statement against the practice of silencing voices and denigrating one’s own experience.  In the process, there is a strong claim of inclusion and seeking to make things better by including more voices into the discussion.

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brendawm | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

Posted June 16, 2007 at 10:27 AM (Answer #1)

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The main theme for A Jury of Her Peers is Gender Roles; much of the tension in the story results from what the women understand and what the men are blind to. The kitchen, during the time the story takes place, was the sole domain of the wife. Wives themselves, Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters are able to determine Mrs. Wright's frame of mind from how she left her kitchen. The men are scornful of the messy kitchen, and ultimately dismissive of what it contains. The sheriff comments that there's "nothing here but kitchen things," and when Mrs. Peters laments that the jars of preserves have burst from the cold, Mr. Hale says that' 'women are used to worrying over trifles." Yet the women know that Mrs. Wright would not choose to have such a shabby or ill-kept kitchen. When the attorney notices the filthy dish towels and says, "Not much of a housekeeper, would you say, ladies?" Mrs. Hale replies that "Those towels get dirty awful quick. Men's hands aren't always as clean as they might be." The stark divisions between men's and women's roles is noted by Mrs. Hale, who says "I'd hate to have men comin' into my kitchen ... snoopin' round andcriticizin'." Such an attitude towards women in the room of the house they know best highlights not only the differences between men's and women's household roles, but also that the women's role is devalued by men.
Follow the link below for more detailed information on the theme. Hope this helps.

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bmadnick | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted June 16, 2007 at 10:33 AM (Answer #2)

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The main theme in the story is the gender roles of the men and women. The men are there as the legal representatives to determine what happened, but it is their wives who are able to determine much more about what happened because they notice things their husbands are blind to. The men leave the kitchen, remarking that there's "nothing here but kitchen things", but the women are able to determine Mrs. Wright's frame of mind by how she left her kitchen. When the men see as "trifles", the women see as significant clues. Since both of the women hae been farmers' wives themselves, they understand the isolation Mrs. Wright must have felt and how the event of her dead canary would upset her.

The attitude of the men show their bias of how they view women. The attorney jokes about them keeping their eyes open in case they come upon a clue, and the sheriff responds they wouldn't recognize it as a clue anyway. The women are not respected by their husbands for their minds. Their place is in the home doing the typical "wifely" duties.

In the end, only the two women can understand how Mrs. Wright felt and how she was treated by her husband. They see her worn clothes, the awful stove she had to cook on, and that her husband would never buy her a telephone to relieve her loneliness. The men will never understand this part of Mrs. Wright's life.

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