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A Jury of Her Peers

by Susan Glaspell
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In "A Jury of Her Peers" by Susan Glaspell- Evaluate the varied relationships with men and women.

The story begins in the late 1800's, when women were not given much respect. The lives of Minnie Allen and Mrs. Peters are contrasted throughout the story, as both have been affected by a man. The murder of Mrs. Peters husband has left her a widow and Minnie's husband has left her with two children to take care of on her own. In this time period, men held all the power and were not expected to work. If they did work it was usually on their own farms or in some other position that the women did not hold any authority over them; this was true for Minnie's husband as well.

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The tension between men and women in Glaspell's short story is everything. Men do not value women or their work. They do not listen to them, give their opinions credence, or think about them as intellectual or feeling human beings at all. For the men of this patriarchal world, women have one purpose in life: to serve men (and to do it quietly.) Here's a line that illustrates this argument. When the police are going through Minnie's home, they briefly investigate the kitchen, which is the center of the majority of female activity in the home. Even though the kitchen can, and does, hold clues, the sheriff dismisses the room: "Nothing here but kitchen things," he said, with a little laugh for the insignificance of kitchen things.

I like Edgar V. Roberts assesment of the neighbor women's roles. He says, "(p)robably the two women do not voice their conclusions about Minnie as the murderer because their open discussion would change the nature of their obligations. As long as they say nothing, thier knowledge remains a part of their secret lives, which they keep private even (or especially) from their husbands. Thus their anger and indignation are their own, even at the end of the story."

Roberts, Edward V. and Henry E. Jacobs
Literature: An Introduction to Reading and Writing, 7th ed.
Pearson Prentice Hall: Upper Saddle River, 2004

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