“The Jury of Her Peers” by Susan Glaspell concerns a crime: the murder of John Wright, found in his bed with a rope around his neck. This summary will lead us to the answer to your question: Who is guilty of the murder of John Wright?
Mr. Hale, a neighbor who stopped to talk to the victim, knocked on the door and thought he heard, “Come in.” He discovered Minnie Wright in a rocking chair. Mr. Hale told her that he wanted to talk to John. Minnie told him that he could not because he was dead upstairs in his bed. She told him that she had been asleep next to him and that she did not wake up until the morning when she found him dead.
The story begins the next day when the county attorney, Sheriff Peters and his wife, and Mr. and Mrs. Hale come into the Wright house. The men are there to investigate the murder, and the women are there to get some things for Minnie who has been taken to jail.
The men go upstairs to look over the crime scene. The women stay in the kitchen and downstairs area. From Mrs. Hale and the search around her house, the reader learns about Minnie Foster Wright:
- She was pretty as a girl and could sing well.
- She changed after marrying Wright.
- Her clothes were old and shabby.
- They had no children.
Mrs. Peters discovers a bird cage. Mrs. Hale did not know that she had a bird; however, she does remember that a year ago a man came around selling canaries. They also notice that the door of the cage had been pulled out of its hinges. Both women wonder what happened to the bird.
Suddenly, Mrs. Hale asks Mrs. Peters if she thought that Minnie killed her husband. Mrs. Peter said that she did not know. Mrs. Hale said that she did not think that Minnie could kill anything. Mrs. Hale describes John Wright as a hard man.
Mrs. Peters picks up a pretty box. She opens it and discovers the bird wrapped in some cloth. The bird’s neck had been wrung. Now, they both know what happened the night that John Wright was killed.
The two women conjecture that Wright did not like the bird. It was noisy and sang. He probably told Minnie to keep it quiet or get rid of it. Obviously, Minnie loved the bird. In their minds, they can see John Wright and Minnie struggling over the bird. He rips the door of the cage open and grabs the bird wringing its neck. Minnie who is grief-stricken snaps. In the night, Minnie repays her husband’s abuse by doing the same thing to him: Minnie killed John Wright.
Mrs. Peters remembers as a child a boy at taken an axe and cut up her kitten. Mrs. Hale imagines that it must have been very quiet around the Wright house with no children. Minnie probably needed the bird as a companion.
When the men return, the women exchange knowing looks. Mrs. Hale hides the box with the bird in her pocket. The men tease the women. The attitude of the men has been that women are incapable of investigating something as serious as this crime.
‘No, Peters,’ said the county attorney, ‘it's all perfectly clear, except the reason for doing it. But you know juries when it comes to women. If there was some definite thing--something to make a story about. A thing that would connect up with this clumsy way of doing it.’
The two ladies know the truth, but they also know the kind of life that Minnie Wright had lived. They will keep what they have learned to themselves. Together, they take the things to Minnie.