A Jury of Her Peers

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The Quilt Symbol Icon

The quilt that the women wish to bring to Minnie Wright in jail takes on symbolic meaning through repeated discussion of two types of quilting styles: regular quilting and knotting. At first, Mrs. Peters and Martha Hale discuss these quilting techniques literally, but the story concludes with George Henderson asking about which quilting technique Minnie was planning to use to finish the quilt. In this scene, Martha Hale’s statement that she was planning to “knot it” symbolizes the act of killing by tying a rope around another’s neck. At the end of the story, the two women are sure of Minnie’s guilt and also understand why Minnie killed her cruel husband, but they have not further discussed the making of the quilt. Therefore, the certainty in Martha Hale’s statement shows that the act of “knotting the quilt” is a symbolic one. The men, of course, overlook the metaphorical implications of this action, dismissing it as just another trifle.

The Quilt Quotes in A Jury of Her Peers

The A Jury of Her Peers quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Quilt. 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

“…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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The Quilt Symbol Timeline in A Jury of Her Peers

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Quilt 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
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... (full context)
The Subjugation of Women Theme Icon
Legal Obligations vs. Gender Loyalty Theme Icon
...kitchen and, in a sudden decision, Mrs. Hale conceals the dead bird’s box under the quilt. George Henderson brings up the previous joke of the women’s concern with the quilt, wanting... (full context)
Legal Obligations vs. Gender Loyalty Theme Icon
...has collected, and the attorney starts to look at the pile of clothes and the quilt, before quickly dismissing the need to check through the womanly items saying, “a sheriff’s wife... (full context)
Legal Obligations vs. Gender Loyalty Theme Icon
Crime and Punishment Theme Icon
...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 term they use, and Mrs. Hale... (full context)