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A Jury of Her Peers

by Susan Glaspell

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Was justice served in "A Jury of Her Peers"?

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Because the murderer will likely not go to prison or be convicted of her crime, you can say that justice is not served. However, the characters in the story and the author seem to feel that Minnie Foster Wright's murder of her husband was justified.

When the story opens, we know that Mr. Wright was murdered in the home, and his wife is at the jail. The sheriff and a neighbor come to investigate the crime scene while their wives, Mrs. Peters and Mrs. Hale, are tasked with collecting some items for Mrs. Wright. The men investigate the scene in a traditional manner and are unable to solve the crime or find a motive. The women, on the other hand, through their domestic observations, manage to discover Minnie Wright's motive. After seeing that Mrs. Wright abandoned her kitchen work and messed up her stitching, the women infer that she was disturbed by something. Later, when looking for sewing supplies, they find that the bird cage is damaged and that the bird is missing; it is eventually discovered, dead, in Minnie's sewing kit. The women determine that Mr. Wright killed the bird, which led to Mrs. Wright killing him in retaliation. The women see the bird as symbolic of Minnie: her spirit has been killed by her husband, and she cannot take any more. Mrs. Hale feels guilty because she never came to visit her old friend on account of the feeling of loneliness evoked by the Wright farm. In other words, the story suggests an alternate theory of justice and guilt than the legal system would enforce. Because they empathize with Minnie, the women hide the evidence to ensure the men do not find her motive. This means that the women support Minnie and do not see her act as criminal or unjust.

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From a purely legal perspective, namely, based on what "justice" means in terms of having an actual jury of her peers decide a verdict for Minnie, the answer is "No". Justice was not served the proper way. 

This is because the case for Minnie Wright was never really put together the way it should have been in a court of law. Her story was not heard. The tragedy of her life was discovered by accident, and the clues to what caused her to snap were the product of the insightful and intuitive nature of two very good women.

What actually takes place in "A Jury of Her Peers" is an act of providence. Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters happen to stumble upon the one piece of evidence that would immediately show Minnie's state of mind, determining that she would have definitely killed John Wright.

Martha Hale's eyes pointed the way to the basket in which was hidden the thing that would make certain the conviction of the other woman--that woman who was not there and yet who had been there with them all through that hour.

We learn that the evidence is concealed and withheld...

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from the prying eyes of the men investigating the case and, with this act, Minnie's actual fate may be saved. Whether this was right or wrong is not the question. The question is, whether this would have really helped the situation, or makes it worse if the case were to be still seen in a court of law. 

Therefore, true justice is not served in "A Jury of her Peers". It is merely interrupted. We do not know if, by another act of providence, Minnie would have had the right attorney to represent her and explain to a jury how much she suffered, and how she snapped. We do not know how far her case would help influence other women in the same situation. Unfortunately, we do not get that finality that would determine whether justice will, in fact, prevail. 

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