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A Jury of Her Peers

by Susan Glaspell

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Describe the crime scene in "A Jury Of Her Peers".

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The actual crime occurred in the bedroom as Mrs. Peters, the protagonist, claims that someone came to the bedroom and put a rope around her husband's neck and strangled him in his sleep. Not much is said about the bedroom, however.  Much, however is said about the kitchen. Why? Because of the context of the story and the atmosphere that the author is trying to create of a home in which a submissive wife suddenly snapped. Hence, the description of the kitchen, the state of the kitchen, the reaction of the detective upon seeing it, and the defense of  Mrs. Hale, the neighbor, over the state of the it are all components of the atmosphere of gender injustice.

How does the kitchen look? Messy. The hand towels are dirty (which the detective, a chauvinist himself , had to talk smack about).  Then the jars of jams and jellies had apparently busted open and cracked, leaving another mess everywhere. Everything was untidy, food laying around, and unfinished stitch work. All this was a way to summarize that the poor woman was at the end of her wits. The detective, of course, put it like the case of an untidy, bad wife that wasn't worth anything. The defense of Mrs. Hale, consistently giving a reason behind all that was found, shows that she had an idea of what was going on.

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How does Mrs. Peters see the crime scene in "A Jury of Her Peers"?

At first, Mrs. Peters looks at the scene through the eyes of the law.  Her husband is the sherrif and she respects the law.  However, over time, she begins to side with Mrs. Hale and see that Minnie was simply in a loveless and unhappy marriage.  She was degrated and made to feel worthless and had a sad place to live.  Mrs. Peters slowly through the story is drawn (she's known as the "swing vote") from the men's way of thinking to Mrs. Hale's way of thinking.  She ends up siding with Mrs. Hale and concealing the evidence that pointed to Minnie's motive for killing her husband.

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Imagine that you are Mrs. Peters in "A Jury of Her Peers." Briefly describe the crime scene as you see it.

In writing your assignment, consider the character of Mrs. Peters before you describe the crime scene from her point of view. Remember that she is the wife of the sheriff. Her friend, Mrs. Hale, is all for covering up the evidence they find, but Mrs. Peters is conflicted about it. She is reminded that she is "married to the law" and yet, should she do what is right according to the law, or do what is right according to her conscience?

If I were writing this, I would start out by describing the crime scene from the point of view of a woman who is upset over the murder but also a woman who is somewhat shocked by what she sees in the farmhouse; a dirty kitchen, a crooked stitch on a quilt, broken fruit jars, an empty canary cage. Remember that at first, the women are surprised by these crime scene observations, but slowly, they come to understand their significance, so I would try to bring this out in my description.

For example:

Mrs. Hale and I were quite surprised over the condition of Minnie's house. The kitchen looked like it had not been cleaned in weeks. There were broken fruit jars in the pantry, and the most amazing thing, there was a bird cage but we did not find any bird in it. The little door was swinging open. We looked around the house to see if we could find the little bird, but little did we realize that eventually we would find it, but it would be dead!

Good luck.

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