What does the domestic setting of "A Jury of Her Peers" contribute to the story?

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amarang9 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Before Mrs. Hale, Mrs. Peters, and the three men even get to the domestic setting, Glaspell sets the mood with the external setting. Describing the Wright house, she notes: 

It looked very lonesome this cold March morning. It had always been a lonesome-looking place. 

This initial mood of coldness and loneliness will correspond to the cold and loveless marriage between Mr. and Mrs. Wright. This is something that only Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters notice and acknowledge. 

As Mrs. Hale walks in the door to the kitchen, she realizes this is the first time she's been there. She regrets not having visited Minnie (Foster) Wright before. This underscores how lonely Minnie must have been. The domestic setting is significant because it is the place where Minnie spent most of her time. Later, Mrs. Hale explains how Minnie used to sing in the choir, "But that--oh, that was twenty years ago." So, the domestic setting is also somewhat of a prison for Minnie. Perhaps this occurred to Minnie when she decided to kill her husband. In other words, trading one prison for another would not make much difference. 

The other significant aspect about the domestic setting is how the men and women interpret it differently. The men are looking through the house for evidence to incriminate Minnie. The women end up discovering evidence of a lonely life, an abusive husband (the dead bird), and a dreary environment in general: 

Everyone in the kitchen looked at the rocker. It came into Mrs. Hale's mind that that rocker didn't look in the least like Minnie Foster--the Minnie Foster of twenty years before. It was a dingy red, with wooden rungs up the back, and the middle rung was gone, and the chair sagged to one side. 

Mrs. Hale's thoughts show how Minnie used to be much more full of life. The person she had become, Minnie Wright, is symbolized by this rundown, damaged chair. In this domestic setting, Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters see evidence of a neglected house and this suggests a neglected wife. 

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A Jury of Her Peers

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