A Jury of Her Peers

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Minnie Wright Character Analysis

The woman accused of killing her husband by strangling him in his sleep, she is held at the jail through the course of the story. Minnie Wright lived a life of isolation in her farmhouse. The dead bird found by Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters was her only companion, one well suited to a once lively girl who had loved to sing. The dead bird was strangled and the parallel between this act and John Wright’s death demonstrates that Minnie had a motive for killing her husband: he removed her one source of happiness, and otherwise mistreated and silenced her throughout their marriage.

Minnie Wright Quotes in A Jury of Her Peers

The A Jury of Her Peers quotes below are all either spoken by Minnie Wright or refer to Minnie Wright . 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.

“Mr. Henderson said, coming out, that what was needed for the case was a motive. Something to show anger—or sudden feeling.”

Related Characters: Mrs. Peters (speaker), George Henderson, John Wright, Minnie Wright
Page Number: 92
Explanation and Analysis:

By sharing what George Henderson said, Ms. Peters foreshadows the climax of the story: the discovery of the critical evidence in the case against Mrs. Wright. This critical evidence shows “motive,” the murder’s reasons for committing her crime, which Henderson assumes must be “anger” or “sudden feeling.” Henderson’s statement that the killer acted out of passion, rather than cold calculation, might hint at his premature assumption of Mrs. Wright’s guilt. In this unequal society, men attribute passion and emotion, rather than intellect and rationality, to women.

Motive is key in a murder investigation because it can decisively sway the opinion of the jury. This is established early in the story when it is clear that Mrs. Wright is already the primary suspect. Evidence of her motive is presented as the necessary piece to seal the case against her, so it is clear how important this evidence is when Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters discover it.

This passage uses a legalistic understanding of crime and punishment. Punishment allocated by the American legal system is supposed to target the guilty, and the system is designed to protect the innocent. In order to do this, those running the legal system need evidence to delineate between the guilty and the not-guilty. This story asks the question: can the legal system effectively delineate between the guilty and the not-guilty? There is not always convincing evidence of a crime and some crimes (such as domestic emotional abuse) are not acknowledged by the legal system.

“A person gets discouraged—and loses heart.”

Related Characters: Mrs. Peters (speaker), Minnie Wright
Page Number: 92
Explanation and Analysis:

Mrs. Peters and Mrs. Hale seem sympathetic towards Minnie early in the story because her kitchen is left in disarray, and the kitchen shows the poverty and hardship she lived in. When Mrs. Hale discovers the stove doesn't work, Mrs. Peters responds, "a person gets discouraged--and loses heart." This cryptic remark points out how discouraging and hopeless it is to live every day struggling with basic, thankless tasks. Mrs. Peters's remark is cryptic because she refers to "a person" rather than Minnie directly. Is she universalizing Minnie's experience, pointing out something that could have happened to Minnie, or herself, or any person? She does not refer specifically to women growing discouraged and losing heart in the face of hardship. She seems to comment more generally about the suffering and hopelessness that arises when one lives perpetually on the edge of poverty or breakdown. 

Another interpretation of Mrs. Peters' comment is that she is intentionally avoiding naming Minnie Wright in her comment by saying "a person." Does she feel that she might come too close to an accusation if she says that Minnie lost heart? Is she wondering if Minnie's hopelessness could have led her to kill her husband? Mrs. Peters is reluctant early in the story to express controversial, or even unique, opinions. She prefers to quote her husband. So, in this moment, she may be struggling to express sympathy with Minnie without this being explicit. 

“‘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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Minnie Wright Character Timeline in A Jury of Her Peers

The timeline below shows where the character Minnie Wright 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
Crime and Punishment Theme Icon
...group, she reflects that she ought to have come over to this house to visit Minnie Wright whom she’d known as a young girl (when she was Minnie Foster). But Martha... (full context)
The Subjugation of Women Theme Icon
Male Obliviousness to Women’s Importance Theme Icon
Crime and Punishment Theme Icon
...that her husband will include his thoughts and opinions, adding unnecessary information that might hurt Minnie Wright’s situation. (full context)
The Subjugation of Women Theme Icon
Legal Obligations vs. Gender Loyalty Theme Icon
...be persuaded by his wife’s desire for a telephone. At the house, Mr. Hale found Minnie Wright looking uncomfortable, but rocking in her rocking chair. Minnie Wright revealed that John was... (full context)
The Subjugation of Women Theme Icon
Crime and Punishment Theme Icon
...upstairs with the rope still in place. Hale returned downstairs, leaving everything untouched, and asked Minnie Wright if she knew who had murdered her husband. Minnie said that she was asleep... (full context)
The Subjugation of Women Theme Icon
Crime and Punishment Theme Icon
...Before the men head upstairs to examine the scene of the crime, George Henderson finds Minnie Wright’s canning jars of fruit in the pantry, which have broken and caused a sticky... (full context)
The Subjugation of Women Theme Icon
Crime and Punishment Theme Icon
...is the only thing available 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... (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 surprises Mrs. Peters, but she supposes Minnie... (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 she is being held. Mrs. Hale can’t believe... (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... (full context)
Legal Obligations vs. Gender Loyalty Theme Icon
Crime and Punishment Theme Icon
As she searches the cupboard for packing materials for the clothes for Minnie Wright, Mrs. Peters finds an empty birdcage. The women speculate about the fate of the... (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 reasons for not coming, she acknowledges, were her distaste for the lonely farmhouse,... (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... (full context)
Legal Obligations vs. Gender Loyalty Theme Icon
...crimes, exclaiming that she ought to be punished for her failure to visit her once-friend Minnie, but “who’s going to punish that?” Mrs. Hale expresses her retrospective certainly that Minnie needed... (full context)
Legal Obligations vs. Gender Loyalty Theme Icon
Crime and Punishment Theme Icon
...turns to the women, teasingly saying that at least they found out something: the way Minnie was planning to finish her quilt. He asks the women to remind him of the... (full context)