As the play opens, Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters have accompanied a group of law enforcement officials, including their husbands, to the site of a murder. The men show dominance when they are critical about the housekeeping of the murder suspect, Minnie Wright. They are also patronizing and dismissive when the women worry about Mrs. Wright's burst cherry preserves, stating that women worry over "trifles." All of this shows how little respect or understanding they have for the work farm women do. The men simply assume, because this is what they have been taught by patriarchy, that their work and observations are more important than the women's. This leads the men to overlook evidence that would have helped them solve the crime.
John Wright's emotional abuse of his wife and physical abuse of her canary, which he kills in a fit of rage, also show patriarchal dominance. John Wright clearly believes he has the right to crush his wife's spirit and destroy her beloved pet.
Mrs. Peter understands how females, starting at early age, have to repress their rage at patriarchal violence. She tells Mrs. Hale the story of how angry she was as a child when a boy hacked her kitten into pieces. This incident reveals that gender-based dominant behavior is learned early, with violence a component of control.
The women understand, given the context of Minnie's life, why she snapped and killed her husband.