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A Jury of Her Peers

by Susan Glaspell

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What is the irony in "A Jury of Her Peers"?

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In "A Jury of Her Peers," the irony is that the men laugh at the women for focusing on what they consider insignificant trifles, but it is in these details that the evidence behind and reasons for Mr. Wright's death can be found. The men, who think they are so much smarter than the women, entirely miss the clues the women find.

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Situational irony occurs when events in a work of literature turns out to be the opposite of what was expected. In "A Jury of Her Peers ," the men who arrive at the Wright's farm to investigate a murder expect to be the ones to solve the crime. They...

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are the experts, and they jeer at the women, Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters, for focusing too much on the "trifles" in Mrs. Wright's kitchen.

Ironically, however, the women are able to solve the crime exactly because of their focus on the details that the men belittle and dismiss as worthless. Looking around the kitchen, they find that Minnie Wright, who the men suspect hanged her husband, John Wright, has carefully preserved a dead canary. The bird's neck is broken and so is the door to its cage. From this, the women realize that John Wright killed the canary in a fit of rage. This was the final straw for Minnie, who killed her husband in retaliation.

The women are able to empathize with Minnie because they have been farm wives too. They know how hard a woman has to work to keep up her end of a farm household and how lonely and isolating it can be to live on a farm. Mrs. Hale remembers her own rage when a boy hacked her kitten to death and can understand why watching a helpless pet being slaughtered might have made Minnie murderous, especially after suffering years of emotional abuse herself.

Ironically, the women, who the men ridicule as silly, are the ones who have the important evidence in their hands in the form of the dead canary. Ironically, too, rather than share the evidence, as the men would expect, they quietly keep it to themselves, sympathizing with Minnie as having committed a justifiable homicide.

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Can you give examples of irony throughout "A Jury of Her Peers"?

The central irony of Glaspell's short story "A Jury of Her Peers" (as well as of the dramatic version, Trifles) is that the investigators overlook the domestic clues that allow their wives to solve the murder. We would expect that investigators who are trained and experienced in searching crime scenes, collecting clues, and solving cases would be better equipped to pinpoint motive and murderer than a group of women whose lives are mostly limited to their homes and immediate community. As it turns out, the small details of Mrs. Wright's (neé Minnie Foster's) daily life and marriage are the keys to the mystery.

While the male investigators scour certain parts of the crime scene, their wives take notice of details such as the half-done kitchen work and the state of Mrs. Wright's knitting. They infer from these clues that Mrs. Wright was interrupted. They eventually find a bird with its neck broken, a symbol for Minnie. The ladies put together their knowledge of Minnie's past as a singer and figure out that her husband's oppression, namely not allowing her to sing, eventually led her to kill her controlling husband. The women, after making their discoveries, decide to cover up the crime. They are, of course, able to do so because the men do not think their observations or activities have any bearing on the murder investigation. Even though one woman is the wife of the chief investigator, she sympathizes with the oppressed woman, and the female characters bond over their pact to protect what they see as a justified action on Minnie's part.

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Can you give examples of irony throughout "A Jury of Her Peers"?

The biggest irony is that, all through the story, the two men in the story are making all sorts of assupmtions, inferences, criticism, judging, blaming, and labeling while their wives, whom they have specifically told to stay away from making assumptions, inferences, criticism, etc are the ones finding out every single clue that is available to resolve exactly what happened in the household that night.

Moreover, the women are able to put together through what the men deem to be "trifles" a perfect scenario of the crime complete with motif, cause, effects, and results. All this, they did by superficially looking at the scene and making connections. The men? Clueless, and one of them was an investigator! They made it all look like it was the case of a very bad wife being even worse. Little did they know that they had a case of wild spousal abuse in their hands, but they were too fanatic of their contempt against women to actually put the two together.

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