A Jury of Her Peers

There are many differences between men and women’s outlooks, sympathies, insights, and views of justice because of the difference of gender. Gender says a lot about a person, and the gender a person is, instantly determines some of the limiting capabilities of a human. In A Jury of Her Peers by Susan Glaspell, the influence of gender roles on events that happen throughout the story are developed and touched upon in detail. In the short story, the reader is able to deduce the reasoning for Minnie’s husband’s murder, and the reasoning for all the women’s actions in the story. The reader also discovers the difference in women’s views of justice. 

Every human has his own individual viewpoint on a topic, which is separate from everyone else’s. Viewpoints and opinions are change based on what a person has been through. This makes the changes between women and men’s viewpoints drastic. In A Jury of Her Peers, the difference of men and women’s outlooks is further emphasized, as the reader is taken into a world where a woman’s opinion is considered “useless,” as stated by Leonard Mustazza in his analysis of A Jury of Her Peers entitled “Generic Translation and Thematic Shift in Susan Glaspell’s Trifles and A Jury of Her Peers” (Mustazza 1). Because women in the story are depicted as plain housewives who are born to work around the kitchen, clean, and do laundry, they never have the opportunity to display strengths other than working around the house. Their outlooks are based on how they have lived their lives, as housewives; while on the contrary, the men view things from a different perspective because they have experienced different events in their lives. These two contrasting viewpoints set up the theme of the story, which is, as described by Mary M. Bendel-Simso’s analysis of A Jury of Her Peers, “the emphasis of gender roles,” (Bendel-Simso 1). Women lead a life completely dominated by men, because that is what society’s gender roles have determined for them. Women are born into being mothers and wives, while men are workers and craftsmen. Every woman in this story is forced to be submissive and subordinate to her husband. The women aren’t able to choose to be lawyers, police officers, or bankers, they are stuck as housewives because that is what society has told them they are supposed to be. This causes all women to sympathize with each other, because they all know the abuse they are going through. The women viewed Minnie Wright murdering her husband as an act of justice for all the pain men have brought on women, while the men viewed it as a crime. These two points of view differed because of how the different genders were raised.

The women in A Jury of Her Peers were in their comfort zone while trying to piece together the mystery of Minnie Wright’s husband’s murder. The kitchen is to women, as the toolshed is to men. They are used to it, and can navigate it with ease, because they have been there the majority of their lives. When all the characters split up to try and find evidence for Mr. Wright’s murder, the men and women split up. The men go where they are most comfortable, as the women do the same; this gives the women an advantage in piecing the clues together. Since Minnie is a woman, all she knows is what society has allowed her (and every other woman) to know: the layout and how to use the kitchen, laundry room, and sewing machine. The women immediately search these three because that is all they know of. This helps give clues to Minnie being the murderer. What also gives a competitive edge to the women is the fact that they can relate to Minnie’s position, being in an abusive relationship in which the woman has no say in. Susan Glaspell writes to enforce the idea that Minnie’s birdcage represents every woman in this story by stating “”Looks as if someone must have been–rough with it.” Again their eyes met—startled, questioning, apprehensive,” (Glaspell 1). Since all women can relate to this circumstance, but can never break free, Minnie murdering her husband is a sign of rebellion that no other woman was every brave enough to do. That, in turn, causes the women to believe the murder was well justified.

It is never directly stated that Mr. Wright beat Minnie during their time together, but it is very strongly implied. There is strong evidence to infer this argument to be valid. Other than the birdcage symbolizing the beatings Minnie would be on the receiving end of, there are other signs. For example: Susan Glaspell writes, “”Wright wouldn’t like the bird,” she said after that—“a thing that sang. She used to sing. He killed that too,” (Glaspell 1). This further shows that Minnie’s husband was a very negative force in their relationship, and was less of a husband and more of a dictator. It shows that the husband didn’t just kill the bird, but her killed her motivation to do what she loved and what made her feel independent and young: sing. To the women, men are their commanders, and they are fed up with being commanded. Minnie “murdering” her husband and the other women choosing to withhold evidence to prove Minnie guilty was the small victory that they needed to feel redeemed. The women “shift their loyalty from their husbands, and the male-dominated legal system, to a woman who mirrors their own lives,” as stated by Steven G. Kellman’s analysis of A Jury of Her Peers (Kellmen 1). To the women, their actions felt justified because of what men have put them through. They felt that Mr. Wright was every man that had ever beaten them, and it was time to get revenge. This caused them to feel no pity, and to feel that him being murdered was deserved, and that Minnie is innocent. At the end of the day, that is the wrong viewpoint to have because Minnie did commit murder, which is a very serious crime, no matter how much she had been beaten or mistreated.

A Jury of Her Peers emphasizes the boundary between the male and female genders. It shows the separate viewpoints and the reason they are so far off from each other. It shows why woman are biased to defend Minnie based on what women have been enduring for generations. Lastly, it sets the scene to describe a time where justice is unclear, and almost makes murder seem to be the right thing to do.

Works Cited

Bendel-Simso, Mary M. “Twelve Good Men Or Two Good Women: Concepts Of Law And Justice In Susan Glaspell’s “A Jury Of Her Peers..” Studies In Short Fiction 36.3 (1999): 291.Academic Search Complete. Web. 21 Mar. 2016.

Mustazza, Leonard. “Generic Translation And Thematic Shift In Susan Glaspell’s “Trifles” And “A Jury Of Her Peers.” Studies In Short Fiction 26.4 (1989): 489-496. Academic Search Complete. Web. 21 Mar. 2016.

Kellmen, Steven G. “A Jury of Her Peers Summary – ENotes.com.”Enotes.com. Enotes.com, 2006. Web. 21 Mar. 2016.

Glaspell, Susan. “A Jury of Her Peers — Full Text.” A Jury of Her Peers — Full Text. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Mar. 2016.