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Women have been oppressed from the times immemorial until nowadays. However, in the past, women were treated more severely by the male dominating society that considered women unequal to men in terms of literacy and objectivity. Women tend to be perfect housewives or mates of their husbands at the social events but other social rights are limited. One of such examples of inequality of womens rights is depicted in the Susan Glaspells short story A Jury of Her Peers (1917) published the next year after the successful play Trifles. It narrates about the moral tiredness of the farmers wife with the cruel and indifferent treatment by her husband so that she does not see another way but to murder her subjugator. However, the story revolves around the details of the investigation into the case when men focus on the visible evidence and women concentrate on the important details qualified by men as trifles. The paper unfolds the theme of understanding feminism in Susan Glaspells A Jury of Her Peers applying interpretation of the plot through the lens of feminist perspective. Furthermore, it also indicates that women can be even more quick-witted than men can. The story also proves that males often treat women unfairly as inferior to them only based on the general distinction between both genders way of thinking and communicating.
In Susan Glaspells short story A Jury of Her Peers, womens awakening, their feminine ties, and common ideology are integral parts of their understanding of the gender discrimination and oppression peculiar in the existing system of justice. They response to it in the form of creation of the new feminine justice and the thread of an argument. Therefore, in contrast to male characters, females suggest an emphatic understanding of the case that originates from a shared context that is to put themselves in the criminals place (Susan Glaspell 46). The inquiry into the feminist mindset and the establishment of a competent community of women assumes non-acceptance of the legitimacy of patriarchal domination and research of legal thought of females. Moreover, in Glaspells 1917 short story, a quilt serves as a three-faceted metaphor for feminine social interaction, feminist narration, and womens involving into law (their unmatched approach to piecing the evidence together): Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters arrive at an explanation by engaging their personal feelings and the particularities of their individual lives (Feminist Interpretations 358). Therefore, feminine logic is more helpful in investigating the case than the chauvinist biases in A Jury of Her Peers.
It is important to introduce the characters and their significance for interpreting feminism in A Jury of Her Peers. Moreover, the difference between gender roles helps to convey the topic of feminism in the story. This difference can be witnessed both verbally and non-verbally. For instance, when the men burst into the house and start wandering around belligerently, directing their steps straight to the stove, the women come into the house tentatively and gather near the doorway. The male characters in A Jury of Her Peers are Mr. Hale, who is a county attorney, Mr. Peters, the local sheriff, and Mr. Henderson, the testifier. On entering the house, the first thing that men notice is that the house is not well-arranged and neat, and they blame Mrs. Wright, who is under arrest: Not much of a housekeeper, would you say ladies (Glaspell 536). When offended Mrs. Hales gives him a reply, Mr. Henderson says, Ah, loyal to your sex, I see (Glaspell 536). Mr. Henderson as other male characters in the story sees womens role in the society as stereotypic. Therefore, if the house is not clean, he considers it laziness.
The female characters in the short story are symbolic. Both neighbor Mrs. Hale and a sheriffs wife Mrs. Peters together with the victim-murderer Mrs. Wright form a symbolic paradigm of feminist interpretations of the world, and, therefore, a rejection of exceptionally male worldview. Both women in the course of investigation encounter the details of Mennies life that make them feel compassion for the poor woman. However, Mrs. Peters seems to be more familiar with Mrs. Wrights situation than neighbors wife does. The thing is that being a sheriffs wife, a woman is at the same time married to the law (Glaspell 101). Male characters often ironically use this phrase throughout the text referring to womans undue attention to the details of the case. However, according to Mellard, sheriffs wife Mrs. Peters … represents womans gender situation more emphatically than Mrs. Hale (134).
Some other numerous symbols help to discover the theme of feminism in the story. For example, John and Minnie Wrights names are also symbolic as they interpret the feminist worldview in the story. For instance, the name Minnie is originated from mini or miniature, the quality that describes womans abusive relationships with her husband John and male insensibility towards most females in the society. Therefore, the name Minnie is an important symbol in the story. Moreover, the fact that women are called only by the last names of their husbands such as Mrs. Peters or Mrs. Hale is also symbolic. Once again, they symbolize the destructive for women domination of men in society. Another significant symbol is a rocking chair that represents the absence of Minnie. Moreover, it provokes Mrs. Hale to think over her maiden Minnie Foster, who used to wear a white dress with blue ribbons and stand up there in the choir and sang (Glaspell 167). However, with the course of time, everything has changed including Minnie. The miserable woman has changed under the oppression of her husband who denied recognizing her individuality and confined her into the stereotype that was mentally exhausting. One more symbol is a birdcage and the bird. Mrs. Hale says that Minnie was a kind of like a bird herself real sweet and pretty, but kind of timid and fluttery before her marriage (Glaspell 165). Later, abusive relations in marriage encage and imprison this bird. John metaphorically strangulates zest for life out of Minnie, and he literally strangulates the bird. With the killing of a bird, the husband kills the last piece of his wifes spirit. First, when two women find the crates of a bird in the cupboard, they do not pay much attention to it. However, after seeing the dead bird, they began to realize the negative consequences that their finding involved. Therefore, the cage symbolizes imprisoned Mrs. Wrights life. Being the private symbols, the bird and the birdcage have their specific meaning where the bird is a womens confined role in the society and the cage is men-oppressors of women.
The symbolism of short story goes far beyond the simple evidence witnessed by men as it interprets feminism from different sides. As a result, the symbolism is vivid in the way Minnie strangles the life out of John, who strangulated beloved by killing her bird. Another significant symbol Mrs. Peters and Mrs. Hale pay attention to is a quilt. Despite the fact that literate officers consider this evidence a trifle, their wives find it a considerable proof of guilt. It is evident that one piece of the well arranged in the whole quilt is sewn negligently. It deludes the women because it looks like she didnt know what she was about (Glaspell 163). This quilt is a vivid representation of Mrs. Wrights life that seemed well-tailored from outside while inside it was formed of pieces. Therefore, John managed to destroy the last scrap of his wifes individuality killing the bird. As a result, she became mad, confused, and actually didnt know what she was about (Glaspell 163). Therefore, Minnie had to make a solution whether to suffer from abuse or to knot it that is to change the existing situation for her own benefit. The reference towards quilt as a trifle is symbolic and ironic in A Jury of Her Peers as Mrs. Hale ironically says, Women are used to worrying over trifles (Glaspell 159). Trifle is usually something tiny and insignificant. Actually, this is how men used to label feminine mindset.
In conclusion, the characters and various symbols connected with them represent how men in A Jury of Her Peers and society in particular used to treat women superficially and disdainfully. It is ironic because when men are only trying to find some clues to the case, women manage to solve the riddle found by men as silly womens trivia or trifles. The wives revolt against their husbands because they conspire not to reveal them the incriminating proof that exposes Minnie. The writer effectively applies symbolism to the story that helps to unfold the theme of feminism. Via vivid usage of symbols, Glaspell features how the self-destroying self-observation of Mr. Wright had gradually suppressed the youthful spirits of Minnie. This symbolism illustrates not only tribulations of Mrs. Wrights life, but also the oppressed existence of all females under severe domination of their husbands. A Jury of Her Peers is a caution to men that the existing patriarchal system where males dominate and oppress the females cannot and will no longer endure.