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A Jury of Her Peers

by Susan Glaspell

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What is the setting of "A Jury of Her Peers"?

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The setting of this story is in a rural American community, Dickson County, at the turn of the twentieth century. This setting is extremely important to establishing the plot and themes of the story. 

The overriding impression we get in this story is of the emptiness of Minnie Wright's life...

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which drives her to despair. In this kind of farming community, at that time, there would be few opportunities for women to do anything but keep the house; that was the only sort of work they could do, while the men were out working the farms. If a woman were happily married, with children to bring up, this would be alright, but for someone trapped in a loveless, childless, and indeed abusive marriage, like Minnie, there really was no escape from a bleak existence. Divorce was not readily available at the time, and much stigmatized. A woman like Minnie would be expected to bear her lot, no matter how lonely and isolated she might be. The loneliness of the Wright farm is emphasized; it is off the beaten track, down in a hollow. It appears as a grim place.

Martha Hale, one of Minnie's nearer neighbours, feels compunction at not having done more for Minnie. She feels guilty that she didn't make the effort to visit her more often:

'Oh, I wish I'd come over here once in a while!' she cried. 'That was a crime! That was a crime! Who's going to punish that?'

Minnie's only recourse, finally, is to kill her husband, by all accounts a thoroughly mean-spirited, domineering man. Her fellow-women, Martha Hale and Mrs Peters, realize the intolerable conditions of her life which finally drove her to extreme action. 

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The play is written in the early 1900's in an agricultural community in America.  Probably mid-west, but no specifications were made.  This setting is important since Minnie was isolated and alone in her misery.  Had she not been, things may have turned out differently for her and her husband.

The author, Glaspell, wrote the play after seeing an article in the newspaper about an abused woman who killed her husband.  Apparently, like Minnie, the woman in the article had reached a breaking point and took matters into her own hands.

Keep in mind that this is a time period where divorce and separation were just not done, so the woman had either to suffer through it, die, or kill her abuser.  The point of this play is to bring about the realization that just because there were fewer divorces or cases of domestic abuse reported in the early 1900's doesn't mean they were all blissfully happy.

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The story takes place in the early 1900s, probably between 1920 and 1930. The setting is a place called Dickson County, though no state is specified. See the Salem Press article linked below as well as the eNotes introduction and summary.

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