A Jury of Her Peers

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"A Jury of Her Peers", written in 1917,[1] is a short story by Susan Glaspell, loosely based on the 1900 murder of John Hossack (not the famed abolitionist), which Glaspell covered while working as a journalist [2] for the Des Moines newspaper in Iowa.[1] It is seen as an example of early feminist literature because two female characters are able to solve a mystery that the male characters cannot. They are aided by their knowledge of women's psychology. Glaspell originally wrote the story as a one-act play entitled Trifles for the Provincetown Players in 1916.[3] The story was adapted into an episode of the 1950s TV series Alfred Hitchcock Presents. The story was adapted into a 30-minute film by Sally Heckel in 1980. The film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Live Action Short Film.[4]

Plot summary[edit]

"A Jury of Her Peers" is about the discovery of and subsequent investigation of John Wright's murder. The story begins on a cold, windy day in Dickinson County with Martha Hale being abruptly called to ride to a crime scene. In the buggy is Lewis Hale, her husband, Sheriff Peters, the county sheriff, and Mrs. Peters, the sheriff's wife. She rushes out to join them in the buggy, and the group sets off. They arrive at the crime scene: the Wrights' lonesome-looking house. Immediately Mrs. Hale exhibits a feeling of guilt for not visiting her friend Minnie Foster since she married and became Mrs. Wright (the dead man's wife) twenty years prior. Once the whole group is safely inside the house, Mr. Hale is asked to describe to the county attorney what he had seen and experienced the day prior. Despite the serious circumstances, he delivers his story in a long-winded and poorly thought-out manner, tendencies he struggles to avoid throughout. The story begins with Mr. Hale venturing to Mr. Wright's house to convince Wright to get a telephone. Upon entering the house, he finds Mrs. Wright in a delirious state and comes to learn that Mr. Wright has allegedly been strangled. The women's curious nature and very peculiar attention to minute details allows them to find evidence of Mrs. Wright's guilt and of her provocations and motives. Meanwhile, the men are unable to procure any evidence. The women find the one usable piece of evidence: the dead bird in the box. It's stated that Minnie used to love to sing and her husband took that away from her. But now finding her bird is dead, with a broken neck (with the implication that the husband killed it) it is evident Mrs. Wright killed her husband. Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters use their knowledge and experience as two "midwestern rural women" to understand Mrs. Wright's suffering when the only living thing around her has died.[5] The women find justification in Mrs. Wright’s actions and go about hiding what they find from the men. In the end, their obstruction of evidence will seemingly prevent a conviction. The story ends here, and does not move into the occurrences after they leave the house.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Bryan, Patricia L. (1997). "Stories in Fiction and in Fact: Susan Glaspell's A Jury of Her Peers and the 1901 Murder Trial of Margaret Hossack". Stanford law review. 49: 71. 
  2. ^ Schechter, Harold. True Crime: An American Anthology (PDF). The Library of America. pp. 179–195. ISBN 1598530313. Retrieved 26 March 2015. 
  3. ^ "A Jury of Her Peers" Study Guide Archived January 24, 2012, at the Wayback Machine. at What So Proudly We Hail Curriculum . Retrieved 15 February 2012.
  4. ^ http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0080974/
  5. ^ Hedges, Elaine (1986). "Small things reconsidered: Susan Glaspell's' 'A Jury of her Peers'". Women's Studies. 12: 22. 

External links[edit]