If you were one of the two women in the story, what would you do at the conclusion of "A Jury of Her Peers," after the men return to the kitchen?
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This type of question is a subjective one and, therefore, better answered by the student herself. Nevertheless, there can be suggestions made on how to go about answering this question. In deciding on the final action of one of the women, consider the following facts:
- Women had very few rights in 1900, the time of the murder of Mr. Wright. They could not vote, they could not serve on juries, and the majority of married women did not work.
- Because of this dependency upon men, women were often belittled and teased about being the "weaker sex." Under the feme covert laws of the Victorian Age, if the husband decided to move, the wives had to obey. Moreover, women could not own property; if they inherited it, the husband had control of it, too.
- Certainly, in important matters, men had the say, and it was the "final word." The society of 1900 was, indeed, a patriarchal society. The arrogance of the male characters who belittle their wives with such remarks as Sheriff Peters's about Mrs. Wright,
"Well, can you beat the women! Held for murder, and worrying about her preserves!"
Being aware that the women are repressed within the setting of the story helps the reader to understand why they have chosen to hide the evidence of a motive for the murder of Mr. Wright. Interestingly, in the real-life trial of Mrs. Hossack for the murder of her husband John, the fact that her husband was abusive to her was used by the prosecution to support her having killed him, whereas nowadays, the abuse of the husband would be support for the defense, not the prosecution.
So, in deciding what actions to take as a participant in this scene, the student will want to place herself within this setting of 1900 and imagine how she would be distrustful of twelve men on a jury. Her sympathies, also, would go to her "sister" in subjugation to men, especially a cold, cruel man who has deprived her of the joys of life and womanhood: the companionship of other women, a phone on which she could talk to other women, the choir in which she has sung, the music of her canary. In the Wright household, there is clearly nothing aesthetic or creative, other than her quilting. When the canary is killed by Mr. Wright, Minnie Foster's soul is damaged. Having been subjected to such abuse, should Mrs. Wright be found guilty?
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