illustration of a dead bird lying within a black box

A Jury of Her Peers

by Susan Glaspell

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What does the telephone symbolize in "A Jury of Her Peers"?

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In "A Jury of Her Peers," the telephone represents communication and isolation.

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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 loneliness. Her husband neglected her, other women in town would not call upon her, and she was too humiliated by her poverty to call on them, so Minnie lived a solitary existence. While going through the Wright household, Martha Hale wonders if contact with other people might have prevented Minnie from resorting to murder. She surmises the last straw for Minnie was her husband's killing her pet bird, her sole companion during her long and lonely days.

The phone would have allowed Minnie to have some contact with the world outside her miserable home and perhaps even given her access to resources that would have allowed her to leave it, but John refused to put in the money for a share in the party line when Mr. Hale came by to ask about it the day before the killing. When Mr. Hale returns the next day and informs Minnie about his plans to ask John about the party line a second time, she laughs abruptly, perhaps realizing the irony that this offer has come far too late. As such, the telephone represents a narrowly missed opportunity for Minnie as well, increasing the dramatic irony of her plight.

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