A Jury of Her Peers

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Martha Hale Character Analysis

The wife of Mr. Hale and resident of the nearest farm to the Wrights’ home. Due to this proximity, as well as her acquaintance with the young Minnie Wright (when her name was Minnie Foster), Mrs. Hale feels immense responsibility for not having visited the married Minnie Wright in twenty years. Martha Hale is established as the protagonist of the story from the first few paragraphs. She is more strong-willed than Mrs. Peters (and is given a first name, unlike the other woman). She defies her husband and the law by concealing the evidence against Minnie Wright, ultimately choosing to ally herself with a fellow woman against the patriarchal society in which they live.

Martha Hale Quotes in A Jury of Her Peers

The A Jury of Her Peers quotes below are all either spoken by Martha Hale or refer to Martha Hale. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
The Subjugation of Women Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the University of Iowa Press edition of A Jury of Her Peers published in 2010.
A Jury of Her Peers Quotes

“Oh, well, women are used to worrying over trifles.”

Related Characters: Lewis Hale (speaker), Mrs. Peters, Martha Hale, Minnie Wright
Related Symbols: Trifles, Canning Jars of Fruit
Page Number: 87
Explanation and Analysis:

The local attorney, the sheriff, and a primary witness search a farmhouse for evidence in a murder trial. The sheriff, Mr. Peters, and the witness, Mr. Hale, both bring along their wives who know Mrs. Wright, the murdered man’s husband and the primary suspect in the case. The group looks quickly around the kitchen and discovers a mess from exploded jars of fruit Mrs. Wright had been working on canning. Mrs. Hale explains that Mrs. Wright was worried about just this very thing, and her husband jokes that women are “used to worrying over trifles” like this canning project. Mr. Hale’s dismissal of the concerns of women as “trifles” shows the subjugation of women in this society (and this phrase also gives the title to one of Glaspell's other famous works, Trifles).

Women are expected to be wives, mothers, and caretakers: their work focuses on the domestic sphere. Men, on the other hand, work outside the home and fill all intellectual roles. Because these gender roles assign women to tasks and responsibilities that men view as less important, men are quick to dismiss and overlook what they consider to be women’s concerns. In this story, the men ignore the domestic things in the house, despite the fact that Minnie Wright is their primary suspect. They cannot imagine that women’s things could yield evidence about their murder investigation. This story shows the men’s ignorance because so-called women’s concerns and "trifles" are actually key in solving the murder mystery, which is decoded by the two female characters.

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“They think it was such a—funny way to kill a man.”
“That’s just what Mr. Hale said….There was a gun in the house. He says that’s what he can’t understand.”

Related Characters: Mrs. Peters (speaker), Martha Hale (speaker), Lewis Hale, Minnie Wright
Page Number: 91
Explanation and Analysis:

John Wright’s murder was unusual because he was strangled with a rope, as Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters quietly discuss out of earshot of the men. Mr. Wright might, more logically, have been shot with the nearby gun in the house, and the method of murder raises many questions. This discussion between the women highlights the unusual nature of this murder. It is followed quickly in the women’s conversation with the discussion of motive. This foreshadows that the mysterious nature of the crime will be important in understanding the motive behind it.

This passage presents a society in which women are accustomed to being considered less important than men. At first glance, this passage is a less explicit discussion of sexism, but its casual references to inequality are perhaps more disturbing. Notably, the women discuss and repeat important information from their husbands as unquestionable. Mrs. Hale directly quotes her husband, which shows her trust in his words and opinions. Men are the ones with access to information and with that information comes the opportunity to decide crimes and punishments. Women are only told second-hand about the important work of investigating the murder. Information is power in this story, and the established inequality in society is challenged when the two wives acquire the very information the men seek. In choosing to conceal this information, the women challenge the structure of a society that they subconsciously accept in this early scene of the story.

“‘But he was a hard man, Mrs. Peters. Just to pass the time of day with him—’She stopped, shivered a little. ‘Like a raw wind that gets to the bone’.”

Related Characters: Martha Hale (speaker), Mrs. Peters, John Wright
Page Number: 96
Explanation and Analysis:

Initially, it seems that Minnie must be her husband's killer and that nothing could possibly excuse such a horrendous crime. Yet, this moment begins to demonstrate that John Wright is not so innocent either. Mrs. Hale is critical of his coldness and harshness, and she shudders when imagining herself in Mrs. Wright’s shoes. Mrs. Hale has no reason to unfairly criticize Mr. Wright, and her words turn the reader’s sympathy away from John Wright, who was unkind and difficult. Questions begin to arise: what did John Wright do to Minnie before his death? Mrs. Hale's evocative metaphor—that being near John Wright was like being in a “raw wind that gets to the bone”—works on the reader on an emotional level. The experience is relatable, haunting, and even physically effective. By using this figurative language, Mrs. Hale persuasively makes her point that John Wright’s past treatment of his wife is worthy of suspicion—even if he's not "guilty" of any specific crime that the male-dominated law would convict.

In this moment, Mrs. Hale self-identifies with Mrs. Wright because she sees similarities between their experiences. By relating to the other woman in this way, Mrs. Hale is growing more sympathetic and understanding of Minnie’s situation, and starting to build up a feeling of solidarity with all women. Because she understands what Minnie went through, she will be inclined to support her rather than the murdered John Wright. She chooses to lie to defend Minnie because she sees that her husband will not be criticized for his cruelty in a society that subjugates women.

“‘Oh, I wish I’d come over here once in a while!’ She cried. ‘That was a crime! That was a crime! Who’s going to punish that?’”

Related Characters: Martha Hale (speaker), Mrs. Peters, Minnie Wright
Page Number: 99
Explanation and Analysis:

Mrs. Hale feels guilty when she realizes that she wasn’t aware of how much Minnie Wright suffered without the support of friends and neighbors. She sees Minnie’s isolation as having contributed to the situation she faces today. With the support of other women experiencing similar inequality and mistreatment, she might not have lashed out at her husband so drastically. Mrs. Hale might have protected Minnie from a court case and sentencing by providing her with emotional support and friendship, even if she couldn’t have rectified the larger societal issues of inequality leading to Minnie’s unhappiness.

Mrs. Hale uses the language of the legal system to categorizing her actions as a “crime.” This repeated term shows that Mrs. Hale is intentionally referring to her behavior as an illegal action, punishable by the law, rather than referring to her behavior as “wrong” or "immoral." This repurposing of the legal term “crime” expands what qualifies as a crime in the story. Mrs. Hale sees Minnie’s loneliness and presumed abuse as a "crime" committed against her, and thus there are many other “crimes” which are not understood or acknowledged as crimes. Instead, crime and punishment are defined by a male-dominated legal system, which will not consider the variety of “crimes” that Mrs. Hale considers when they judge Minnie’s case. By referring to Minnie’s loneliness and mistreatment at her husband’s hands as “crimes,” Mrs. Hale is arguing that these factors ought to be considered in judging Minnie’s case.

“We all go through the same things—it’s all just a different kind of the same thing!”

Related Characters: Martha Hale (speaker), Mrs. Peters, Minnie Wright
Page Number: 99
Explanation and Analysis:

Mrs. Hale universalizes Minnie’s, Mrs. Peters's, and her own experiences as she realizes that all these examples of suffering have the same source: the subjugation of women. She includes herself in the same group as Minnie Wright, and the “we” she uses encompasses all women. There are differences among the specific examples of suffering that women face, but these experiences are “different kinds of the same thing” because they are the result of inequality. Minnie Wright was deeply lonely and the one thing that mattered most to her (her pet bird) was taken from her. Mrs. Peters suffered at the whim of a cruel boy. Mrs. Hale works tirelessly without appreciation, while facing constant belittlement of her work as "trifles." But all three women are suffering for the same reason: the oppression placed on them by a patriarchal society.

This is a key moment in the story, because here the women make a decisive choice between their legal obligation to present any evidence pertaining to the crime and their loyalty to another woman who has suffered as they have suffered. They choose the latter. When they acknowledge that all women are subjugated and that their various experiences of abuse, neglect, and belittlement stem from this inequality, they feel they must stand together. They see themselves as having more in common with Minnie Wright, an aggrieved murderer, than with their husbands, who believe, however kindly or subconsciously, in the inferiority of women.

“…at least we found out that she was not going to quilt it. She was going to—what is it you call it, ladies?”
“We call it—knot it, Mr. Henderson.”

Related Characters: George Henderson (speaker), Martha Hale (speaker), Minnie Wright
Related Symbols: The Quilt
Page Number: 102
Explanation and Analysis:

The story ends with Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters’s split second decision to hide the evidence (the dead bird) that would seal the case against Minnie Wright. They also take the quilt, which shows Minnie's emotional distress as it shifts from orderly to poor sewing. The men overheard the women discussing the quilt earlier in the story, and they laughed at the women’s concern with this feminine pastime. The two methods of quilting—to quilt or to knot—take on metaphorical meaning in the story, however, because “to knot” resembles the way Mr. Wright was killed—strangulation by rope. This metaphor points to the truth that the women now know: Minnie Wright was planning to knot the quilt, just as she knotted the rope around her husband’s neck.

When George Henderson asks this question, he only understands it to be a sarcastic literal question about the fate of the quilt, whereas the women see the metaphorical resonances of the term “knotting.” Henderson is mocking the two women because they are focused on “trifles” in the face of a murder investigation. Ironically, the women have solved the mystery of the murderer’s motive with the quilt and the dead bird in the sewing box. Henderson is asking a critical question when he asks about Minnie’s plans for finishing the quilt, but to him it is only a humorous quip at the expense of the women. His obliviousness to the concerns of women in the domestic sphere—which is shared by all the men in this story—causes him to overlook the very evidence he seeks.

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Martha Hale Character Timeline in A Jury of Her Peers

The timeline below shows where the character Martha Hale appears in A Jury of Her Peers. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
A Jury of Her Peers
The Subjugation of Women Theme Icon
The story begins with protagonist Martha Hale ’s hasty departure from her farmhouse in Dickinson County, Iowa. Martha Hale hates to leave... (full context)
The Subjugation of Women Theme Icon
Crime and Punishment Theme Icon
...group of neighbors includes Mr. Peters and Mrs. Peters and the country attorney George Henderson. Martha Hale doesn’t know Mrs. Peters well, but she reflects that Mrs. Peters doesn’t look like the... (full context)
The Subjugation of Women Theme Icon
Male Obliviousness to Women’s Importance Theme Icon
Crime and Punishment Theme Icon
...Peters asks Lewis Hale to describe what he witnessed at the farmhouse the day before. Mrs. Hale looks on nervously because she knows her husband is not very good at retelling stories.... (full context)
The Subjugation of Women Theme Icon
Crime and Punishment Theme Icon
...to dry his hands. From this, he assumes aloud that Minnie is a poor housekeeper. Mrs. Hale angrily says that a farmer’s wife’s work is never done and that Minnie must have... (full context)
The Subjugation of Women Theme Icon
Male Obliviousness to Women’s Importance Theme Icon
...if the women would know a clue if they found one. The men go upstairs. Mrs. Hale is still frustrated by George Henderson’s unfair critique of Minnie’s housekeeping, and tells Mrs. Peters... (full context)
The Subjugation of Women Theme Icon
Male Obliviousness to Women’s Importance Theme Icon
Legal Obligations vs. Gender Loyalty Theme Icon
Mrs. Peters asks Mrs. Hale to help her find the items Minnie requested: clothes and an apron, an item that... (full context)
Legal Obligations vs. Gender Loyalty Theme Icon
Suddenly Mrs. Hale asks Mrs. Peters if she thinks that Minnie is guilty of the crime for which... (full context)
The Subjugation of Women Theme Icon
Male Obliviousness to Women’s Importance Theme Icon
Legal Obligations vs. Gender Loyalty Theme Icon
The women find a quilt that Minnie Wright was working on. As Mrs. Peters and Mrs. Hale are admiring the quilt, the men return and are amused to hear the women speculating... (full context)
Legal Obligations vs. Gender Loyalty Theme Icon
Crime and Punishment Theme Icon
...birdcage. The women speculate about the fate of the bird that once filled the cage. Mrs. Hale says it might have been killed by the Wrights’ cat, but Mrs. Peters reports that... (full context)
The Subjugation of Women Theme Icon
Male Obliviousness to Women’s Importance Theme Icon
Legal Obligations vs. Gender Loyalty Theme Icon
Mrs. Hale berates herself for her letting her own concerns stop her from visiting Minnie. Mrs. Hale’s... (full context)
The Subjugation of Women Theme Icon
Mrs. Peters did not know Minnie before she met the charged woman the previous day. Mrs. Hale tells Mrs. Peters about the Minnie Foster she knew and says that she changed dramatically... (full context)
The Subjugation of Women Theme Icon
Legal Obligations vs. Gender Loyalty Theme Icon
...twisted to the side. The men return to the kitchen and, in a sudden decision, Mrs. Hale conceals the dead bird’s box under the quilt. George Henderson brings up the previous joke... (full context)
The Subjugation of Women Theme Icon
...have caused her to hurt the boy if she hadn’t been held back by others. Mrs. Hale , caught up in her own train of thought, says that John Wright must have... (full context)
Legal Obligations vs. Gender Loyalty Theme Icon
...off her cloud of memory and firmly says, “the law has got to punish crime.” Mrs. Hale responds by calling her own actions crimes, exclaiming that she ought to be punished for... (full context)
Legal Obligations vs. Gender Loyalty Theme Icon
Crime and Punishment Theme Icon
...the dead bird in her handbag and is flustered as the bag is too small. Mrs. Hale snatches the box and puts it in her pocket. The men reappear, and George Henderson... (full context)