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What is the theme of the story?

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footballkid5 | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted June 16, 2007 at 9:48 AM via web

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What is the theme of the story?

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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.
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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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