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.

Frequently Asked Questions about A Jury of Her Peers

A Jury of Her Peers

The rising action is where the central conflict of the story gains in momentum and tension. It precedes the climax, where the conflict comes to a head. In "A Jury of Her Peers," the rising action...

Latest answer posted September 15, 2021, 11:23 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

A Jury of Her Peers

"A Jury of Her Peers" is presumably loosely based on the murder of John Hossack. Susan Glaspell, who was a reporter working for the Des Moines Daily News at the time, covered the subsequent trial...

Latest answer posted September 13, 2021, 1:10 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

A Jury of Her Peers

The main conflict in “A Jury of Her Peers” is one of perception as three men and two women try to discover Minnie Wright's motive for murdering her husband. No one has any real doubt that Minnie is...

Latest answer posted September 13, 2021, 1:51 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

A Jury of Her Peers

"A Jury of Her Peers" suggests that the male-run criminal justice system of the early twentieth century might have failed to deliver justice to women, not understanding the reality of their lives....

Latest answer posted September 13, 2021, 12:03 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

A Jury of Her Peers

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...

Latest answer posted September 13, 2021, 11:40 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

A Jury of Her Peers

"A Jury of Her Peers" best fits into the mystery literary genre. The generating circumstance is the untimely and highly suspicious death of John Wright, who has been found dead in his bed with a...

Latest answer posted September 14, 2021, 8:09 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

A Jury of Her Peers

"A Jury of Her Peers" is a reworking of Susan Glaspell's one-act play Trifles. Both works raise questions about whether the criminal justice system treats women fairly. In both, the men in law...

Latest answer posted September 15, 2021, 12:02 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

A Jury of Her Peers

The quilt comes to symbolize the solidarity of women in "A Jury of Her Peers." When the group investigating the murder scene passes by the quilt, Mrs. Peters stops to admire it. Tenderly touching...

Latest answer posted September 15, 2021, 3:55 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

A Jury of Her Peers

The central character in Susan Glaspell's story “A Jury of Her Peers” is Mrs. Martha Hale. We see the events and hear the conversations through her point of view even though the story is told by a...

Latest answer posted September 14, 2021, 5:25 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

A Jury of Her Peers

The telephone is a symbol of communication with the outside world, something Minnie Wright is solely deprived of during her unhappy marriage. Minnie's great suffering came in part from her...

Latest answer posted September 16, 2021, 11:34 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

A Jury of Her Peers

In Susan Glaspell's story “A Jury of Her Peers,” Minnie Foster is simply Minnie Wright's name before she was married. Mrs. Hale remembers Minnie Foster as a cheerful, lively young girl with pretty...

Latest answer posted September 16, 2021, 2:31 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

A Jury of Her Peers

In Susan Glaspell's “A Jury of Her Peers,” Mrs. Hale deeply regrets not visiting Minnie Wright more often. She knew Minnie before she was married, and she liked Minnie, who was a singing, cheerful...

Latest answer posted September 16, 2021, 1:47 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

A Jury of Her Peers

The male characters in "A Jury of Her Peers" arrive at the Wright farm to search for evidence that would reveal a reason for Minnie Wright to have killed her husband. As the county attorney says,...

Latest answer posted September 16, 2021, 11:23 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

A Jury of Her Peers

As opposed to simplistic flat characters, round characters have more going on beneath the surface. A flat character is little more than a stereotype, while a round character better resembles a real...

Latest answer posted September 16, 2021, 11:15 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

A Jury of Her Peers

In Susan Glaspell's story “A Jury of Her Peers,” the broken, empty birdcage symbolizes Minnie Wright's broken, empty life. Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters find the birdcage as they are looking around...

Latest answer posted September 15, 2021, 1:21 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

A Jury of Her Peers

Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters accompany their husbands to the Wright farm, where the day before, Mr. Wright was found hanged by his bed. Minnie Wright, his wife, is the logical suspect, but the men...

Latest answer posted September 13, 2021, 11:21 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

A Jury of Her Peers

The death of Mrs. Wright's canary is key to understanding why she murdered her husband. The men investigating the case are under pressure to find a motive that would allow them to construct a case...

Latest answer posted September 14, 2021, 11:17 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

A Jury of Her Peers

In “A Jury of Her Peers,” Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters discover a broken birdcage as they look around the Wright home for clues about why Minnie Wright might have killed her husband. The birdcage's...

Latest answer posted September 14, 2021, 3:34 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

A Jury of Her Peers

To fully understand the irony of this statement, it's first important to understand the context of Mr. Wright's death. Mr. Hale, a neighbor of the Wrights, stopped by to see John Wright one morning...

Latest answer posted September 14, 2021, 7:27 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

A Jury of Her Peers

Martha Hale is a farmer's wife who lives near Minnie Wright. Her husband happened to find the hanged body of Mr. John Wright the day before. Because Mrs. Peters, the sheriff's wife, who is packing...

Latest answer posted September 15, 2021, 11:41 am (UTC)

1 educator answer
Next

Summary