In “A Jury of Her Peers,” men and women have distinctly different gender roles and the story portrays the different opportunities available to men and women both in terms of the division of labor and in society as a whole. This world is controlled by men because social rules restrict women’s ability to move about, to choose their own interests, or to exist as separate beings from their husbands. Minnie Wright and Martha Hale are continuously defined as housekeepers. The responsibilities of caring for a house, and a kitchen in particular, are linked only to women. Martha Hale still thinks of Minnie Wright as Minnie Foster, emphasizing the identity change each woman undergoes when she marries and takes her husband’s name as her own, when she becomes defined by her husband’s identity and her own separate personality is lost. One aspect of this social subjugation of women explored in the story is the loneliness that results from being stuck in the home. Men have each other’s company, but women must remain at home, alone. A childless woman, like Minnie Wright, would have felt this loneliness even more poignantly.
The subjugation of women in the story is not confined to the economic and the social. The male characters add to these social rules and expectations with a more personalized form of oppression: by belittling individual women for their weaknesses and their interests. Mr. Peters mocks his own wife’s fear of traveling to the home that is the scene of a murder. The men repeatedly say that the items in the kitchen, or the items Mrs. Wright has requested in prison, are below their notice. In this way, the men devalue the women by devaluing the only things that have been left to the control of women.
In many ways, Mrs. Peters and Martha Hale accept the treatment they receive from the male characters. In fact, they contribute to the gender roles by believing certain things are only the men’s responsibility, such as finding serious evidence. Over the course of the story, though, the women are able to acknowledge their situation to themselves and to each other. They are united by Minnie’s predicament because they see that they each have experienced the loneliness, isolation, and mistreatment that led her to kill her husband. In recognizing their shared experience through Minnie’s tragic dilemma, the women begin to see themselves as part of a group of all women, and they are unwilling to judge another women who experienced the same subjugation. In concealing the evidence of Minnie’s motive, the dead bird, the women stand up against the oppression they’ve experienced by creating a different sphere in which Minnie’s actions are judged and pardoned: a jury of united women.
The Subjugation of Women ThemeTracker
The Subjugation of Women Quotes in A Jury of Her Peers
“Oh, well, women are used to worrying over trifles.”
“I’d hate to have men comin’ into my kitchen…snoopin’ round and criticizin’.” “Of course it’s no more than their duty.”
“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.”
“A person gets discouraged—and loses heart.”
“‘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’.”
“We all go through the same things—it’s all just a different kind of the same thing!”
“No, Mrs. Peters doesn’t need supervising. For that matter, a sheriff’s wife is married to the law.”