A Jury of Her Peers

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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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“I’d hate to have men comin’ into my kitchen…snoopin’ round and criticizin’.” “Of course it’s no more than their duty.”

Related Characters: Lewis Hale (speaker), Mrs. Peters (speaker), George Henderson, Henry Peters
Page Number: 89
Explanation and Analysis:

The kitchen in the Wrights' house is messy, and George Henderson comments on this, mocking Mrs. Wright’s poor housekeeping abilities. As soon as the men leave the room, Mrs. Hale makes her frustration at Henderson’s comments clear. She explains how unhappy she’d be to be treated in this way because she knows much labor goes into caring for a household. Men, who have not done this type of work, should not belittle the effort involved in running a farming household single-handedly. Mrs. Hale is willing to be critical of Henderson, but Mrs. Peters is not (at this point). She is quick to excuse her husband's behavior, whether or not she thinks it is unfair to Minnie Wright.

The women in this society face a strict set of expectations for their behavior. They resent this to varying degrees, but cannot fully escape from it. This passage shows how the women's thinking has been shaped by the way society has always treated them. Mrs. Hale sees the kitchen as the domain of a woman. She sees her kitchen as hers, and not the joint space of herself and her husband. Also, Mrs. Peters sees an investigation for evidence as the duty of the men. Their process is beyond her reproach. Early in the story, the women are not inclined to stand up against the men, their own gender roles, and the expectations of society. Over the course of the story, however, they reach mental and emotional states that allow them to rebel and defy their husbands.

“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. 

“‘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.

“‘When I was a girl…my kitten—there was a boy took a hatchet, and before my eyes—and before I could get there—’ She covered her face an instant. ‘If they hadn’t held me back I would have’—she caught herself, looked upward where footsteps were heard, and finished weakly—‘hurt him.’”

Related Characters: Mrs. Peters (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Dead Bird
Page Number: 98
Explanation and Analysis:

The women discover Mrs. Wright’s strangled song bird, and Mrs. Peters immediately recalls a similar experience in her past when her kitten was killed by a neighborhood boy. This traumatic memory creates a link between Mrs. Peters and Minnie Wright because Mrs. Peters is able imagine the pain Minnie would have felt when her pet was ruthlessly killed (presumably by Mr. Wright). Furthermore, Mrs. Peters knows how she reacted to this pain: she wanted to lash out at the perpetrator and punish him. Minnie’s reaction, it is implied, could very easily have been the same. When Mrs. Peters "catches herself, looks upstairs where steps are heard, falters weakly,” it is as if she is confessing to the very crime the men are seeking to punish. She knows that she too would be capable of violence if she was hurt as Minnie was hurt.

Early in the story, the two women differ in their understanding of their traditional roles as women. Mrs. Peters is more subdued and subservient, refusing to speak out against the actions of the men. On the other hand, Mrs. Hale criticizes Mr. Wright and the men, although not within their hearing. It seems to take Mrs. Peters extra time to side with Minnie Wright over Minnie’s husband and her own husband. She has more of a hurdle to overcome when defying her husband’s wishes (particularly because he's the sheriff), but in this moment she finds that she has strong empathy for Minnie because of their shared experience of suffering at the hands of men.

“‘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.

“No, Mrs. Peters doesn’t need supervising. For that matter, a sheriff’s wife is married to the law.”

Related Characters: George Henderson (speaker), Henry Peters, Mrs. Peters
Page Number: 101
Explanation and Analysis:

Mr. Peters asks the county attorney if he would like to look through the items that his wife and Mrs. Hale have selected to deliver to Minnie Wright at the court house. Henderson dismisses this idea, because he cannot imagine that Mrs. Peters and Mrs. Hale would have intentionally selected anything threatening. He doesn’t think they would go against the wishes of their husbands, and he also doesn’t think they’re intelligent enough to do any real damage if they tried to help Minnie. He doesn’t believe them capable of any kind of deception worth noting.

George Henderson also considers Mrs. Peters, in particular, to be a harmless woman because she is the sheriff’s wife. This assumption is based on Henderson’s understanding that a woman obeys the wishes of her husband in all things, and that a good wife like Mrs. Peters must be particularly law-abiding because she respects and obeys her law-enforcing husband. This shows just how much Mrs. Peters stands to lose in choosing to conceal evidence, which is not only illegal, but against the wishes and ideals of a husband who works for the law. In choosing to support and protect Minnie Wright, Mrs. Peters has prioritized gender loyalty above her commitments as a law-abiding citizen and obedient wife. Together, Mrs. Peters and Mrs. Hale are challenging male authority—their husbands’ authority and the authority of the male-dominated legal system.

“…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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