A Jury of Her Peers

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Male Obliviousness to Women’s Importance Theme Analysis

Themes and Colors
The Subjugation of Women Theme Icon
Male Obliviousness to Women’s Importance Theme Icon
Legal Obligations vs. Gender Loyalty Theme Icon
Crime and Punishment Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in A Jury of Her Peers, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Male Obliviousness to Women’s Importance Theme Icon

While society and individual men oppress women throughout this short story, another theme in the text is the unexpected power the women have within the domestic sphere. This power is unexpected because the male characters repeatedly overlook the potential of the “trifles” that concern women. Ironically, the two women discover the evidence the men seek among the domestic items that the men dismiss. The men are unable to see the importance of the domestic sphere because they are unable to see the importance and intelligence of the women in their lives. By placing the solution to the murder mystery within the domestic sphere, Glaspell empowers the women with the very information the men unsuccessfully seek.

The male characters are oblivious to the domestic sphere because they take for granted their own self-importance. A society with distinct gender roles that oppresses women has also taught men to value and trust their own opinions and minds without question. The men cannot recognize their need to consider the potential, or the threat, of the women near them, as when the county attorney assumes that anything Mrs. Peters would take to Minnie Wright must necessarily be harmless, simply because she’s a woman.

Male Obliviousness to Women’s Importance ThemeTracker

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Male Obliviousness to Women’s Importance Quotes in A Jury of Her Peers

Below you will find the important quotes in A Jury of Her Peers related to the theme of Male Obliviousness to Women’s Importance.
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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“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.