A Jury of Her Peers Study Guide
A Jury of Her Peers: Themes
A Jury of Her Peers: Characters
A Jury of Her Peers: Analysis
A Jury of Her Peers: Critical Essays
A Jury of Her Peers: Multiple-Choice Quizzes
A Jury of Her Peers: Questions & Answers
A Jury of Her Peers: Introduction
A Jury of Her Peers: Biography of Susan Glaspell
Introduction to A Jury of Her Peers
“A Jury of Her Peers” is a short story by Susan Glaspell. Published in 1917 in Every Week magazine, the story is a faithful adaptation of Glaspell’s 1916 one-act play, Trifles. Glaspell worked as a journalist early in her career, and both the play and short story were inspired by a murder trial that she covered for the Des Moines Daily News. Both Trifles and “A Jury of Her Peers” were met with immediate acclaim and are widely regarded as some of Glaspell’s best works. In particular, literary scholars note the way in which the story interrogates the differences between women’s experiences and men’s experiences, especially with regard to the law.
The story is set in the farmhouse of Minnie and John Wright. Minnie is currently being held at the county jail under suspicion of having murdered her husband. Five people assemble to search the farmhouse for clues: three men and two women. The men are certain of Minnie’s guilt and hope to find evidence they can use to convict her. The women are left to their own devices after the men condescendingly imply that women would not know what to look for. This assumption proves false, as the two women uncover several clues indicating what happened. However, they choose to keep these clues concealed from the men out of a sense of solidarity with Minnie, who they believe was trapped in an abusive marriage.
The primary focus of the story is the notion of justice. Though Minnie’s guilt in her husband’s murder is all but confirmed, the story suggests that the men sent to investigate—and by extension, a jury composed primarily of men—cannot properly judge her. It is only the women who notice the “trifles” that ultimately illuminate what likely happened the day of John’s murder, and thus it is only the women who can determine Minnie’s guilt. Glaspell’s body of work has a decidedly feminist tilt, and “A Jury of Her Peers” offers a scathing indictment of a society that treats domestic abuse and women’s oppression as mere gossip. Furthermore, Minnie’s decision to murder her husband highlights the psychological damage that such oppression can cause and asks readers to question how true justice might sometimes exist separately from law and order.
A Brief Biography of Susan Glaspell
Susan Glaspell (1876–1948) is one of the most important female voices in twentieth-century theater. However, several decades ago, the average student might not have known who she was. Glaspell was popular enough during her lifetime to help support herself and her husband as they embarked on their work with the now-famous Provincetown Players. Unfortunately, after her death in the late 1940s, she and her writing fell into relative obscurity. With the rise of feminism and the renewed interest in unsung female voices the movement generated, Glaspell has been restored to her rightful place in the literary canon. Her most famous play, Trifles, hinges on the discoveries of two women whose understanding of the domestic sphere is overlooked and ignored by the men around them.