The Foil of an Investigation
In the early 1900’s Susan Glaspell wrote many works. Two of her works stand out as true feminist tells, including the play Trifles and the short story “A Jury of Her Peers”. Trifles was written in 1920, while “A Jury of Her Peers” was written the following year. Trifles was written in only ten days. These works were not truly recognized until the 1970’s though.
Glaspell was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for “Alison’s House” in 1931 (Maillakias 2). Glaspell was born on July 1, 1876 in Davenport, Iowa. Glaspell was the middle child and the only daughter. She was an excellent student through high school and graduated with honors. She also graduated from Drake University with a Ph.B in Philosophy.
Throughout her college tenure, she wrote for the Drake paper, The Delphic. Following graduation, she began working for the Des Moines News. While working as a reporter for the Des Moines news, she ran across a murder that involved a woman on a farm. This murder gave her an idea for her story. The play was Trifles and the short story was “A Jury of Her Peers”(2).
In the short story “A Jury of Her Peers” a woman named Minnie Wright is accused of the murder of her husband.
Minnie Wright is a farmer’s wife and is also isolated from the out side world. There is an investigation that takes place in the home of the murder. There are three men that are involved on the case and two women accompany, but are not there to really help solve the murder. These two women will solve the murder and protect Mrs. Wright of any wrongdoing. The women will dispose and justify to themselves, that the murder was justifiable.
The three men seek out to find motive, but they never do and the case will go unsolved. Glaspell uses symbolism as her a literary device to illuminate her theme. The symbols include: a jar of cherries, a bird, a quilt, kitchen, an even the type of knot that was used for her quilt. All of these details will help the two women justify the murder of Mr. Wright. I wish to show how Glaspell uses symbolism to justify the murder.
I also wish to show how a disturbed farmwomen will get away with murder because of two farmwomen helping her, by getting rid of valuable evidence.
In the short story “A Jury of Her Peers” Glaspell first uses the kitchen as her first use of symbolism, to show disarray. According to one critic Amari Verastegui “The kitchen is described as being in disorder with unwashed pans under the sink, a dishtowel left on table, a loaf of bread outside the breadbox, and other disarray. This gives the impression of no attention having been paid to cleaning up either recently or usually”(Verastegui 3). The room has faded wallpaper, an old black stove, and an old iron sink with a hand pump and no curtains at the one window. The unpainted table at the center sounds old and utilitarian.
The description suggests a very uninviting room with no frills or anything to brighten the area. Nothing frivolous or feminine, like flowers or colorful plates are described as being in the room. Now these are details that were very thought out to help give the reader more ambition to find their own explanation of the symbols. According to critic Beverly Smith, “From their entrance, the women stand part from the men, clustered at the stove. The men talk with a rough familiarity born working together and knowing one another. The women seem less acquainted and don’t ever call each other by their first names.
But at the men’s first disparaging remarks about Minnie’s housekeeping and women ‘worrying over trifles,’ the women move closer together” (Smith 177). This is what set up the women to try and find the evidence that they need to protect Minnie Wright from being charged with her husband’s murder.
This murder is one that the two women can identify with. The reason is that both of the women were farmers’ wives and had very similar lifestyles. Mrs. Hale describes John Wright .