A Municipal Report Questions and Answers
by O. Henry

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Which story is a better example of interpretive literature, "A Municipal Report" or "A Jury of Her Peers"?

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David Wisar eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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In a comparison between interpretive and escapist, both “A Municipal Report” and “A Jury of Her Peers” fall on the side of interpretation rather than escape. Both stories lead to deep reflection and questions about human nature and truth.

Both stories deal with difficult social concepts and challenge the accepted morality of their time and place. “A Municipal Report” challenges the racist ideology that existed in the early twentieth century south. The hero of the story, set in Nashville, is a black man who saves a white woman from a white man. The setting of the story, along with existing social stigma and racism, makes it so this story’s plot stands out and makes a statement about the attitudes of southern society. “A Jury of Her Peers” challenges the sexism of its time. Not only are the women in the story able to solve the case when the men cannot, but they judge the woman based on the evidence they see and then conceal the evidence that might be used to prosecute Mrs. Wright.

While both stories deal with serious themes and the social issues of their time, “A Jury of Her Peers” is the better example of interpretive literature. The reason it fits the definition better is that it is more realistic in its portrayal of events than “A Municipal Report,” which is melodramatic in its structure and style. The straightforward method of storytelling and the believable sequence of events makes “A Jury of Her Peers” more interpretive and less escapist than “A Municipal Report.”

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Felicita Burton eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Although there are many differences between O. Henry’s story "A Municipal Report" and Susan Glaspell’s "A Jury of Her Peers," both stories have the same theme: Is taking another person’s life ever justified? In this respect, both stories fit the basic criteria of interpretive literature, as they ask the reader to look deep into fundamental human truths. They are also similar in that the person killed is an abusive husband. A strong case could be made for either story in terms of how it fits that category.

In O. Henry’s story, Caesar ends up killing Caswell to keep him from further abusing his wife, Azalea. The complexity of the story includes both racial and gendered elements. Caesar’s affection for Azalea goes back to his family’s enslavement by her family, a situation in which children from two families often grew up together. The narrator surmises that Caesar is the killer from a small piece of evidence, but he apparently does not report his suspicions to the authorites.

In Glaspell’s story, all the characters are apparently white. The conflict is almost completely gendered: two women figure out that a woman killed her husband; in this case, they actually conceal possible evidence. The other aspect of the gendered conflict, although much milder, is that the women discern what the men, including a lawman, could not because they attend to details more meaningful to women.

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