The two female characters in the story, Mrs. Peters and Martha Hale, have conflicting commitments to Minnie Wright and the male-dominated legal system. Their commitment to Minnie Wright is due to their realization that all women have experienced isolation because of oppressive gender roles. Their commitment to the law is due to their status as citizens, but also, at a time when women could not vote, due to their position as wives subjected to their husbands’ wills. Mrs. Peters, the Sherriff’s wife, is told that she is “married to the law,” which shows that her responsibility to the law and to her husband are the same in the minds of men.
The male characters feel a strong responsibility to uphold the law. Yet because the law is controlled, designed, and enforced by men, the law also gives men power. Men control institutions like the legal system, which means that Minnie Wright will not have the opportunity to be judged, in a legal court, by a jury of her peers, as the title of the short story explains. A jury of her peers, other women, can only exist in the domestic sphere where Mrs. Peters and Martha Hale conceal the evidence of her crime. In the official legal system, men, not women, will judge Minnie Wright’s crime and assign her punishment, without ever understanding or even caring about her situation. The women, at first, also feel this same responsibility, yet over the course of the story they come to see how the male-dominated law has failed Minnie—and, by extension, themselves. When Mrs. Peters and Martha Hale make the active choice to hide the dead bird, they are restricting this evidence from appearing in the legal court controlled and judged by men. Therefore, this act is a rebellion against the power of the male-dominated institution.
Legal Obligations vs. Gender Loyalty ThemeTracker
Legal Obligations vs. Gender Loyalty Quotes in A Jury of Her Peers
“I’d hate to have men comin’ into my kitchen…snoopin’ round and criticizin’.” “Of course it’s no more than their duty.”
“‘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’.”
“‘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.’”
“‘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?’”
“We all go through the same things—it’s all just a different kind of the same thing!”