Monday, March 30, 2009

Jury of Her Peers by Glaspell

Martha Hale, and Mrs. Peters, two main female characters in the short story, had briefly met "at the country fair", and therefore did not know each other well. However, through the course of the short fiction, they forge a bond of understanding if not compassion between each other and the third main female character, Minnie Foster, who is merely alluded to in the story. These women are considered less knowledgeable and noteworthy by their male detective counterparts: even outsiders in the detective realm. Yet these same women become most important in solving the case of the murder of John Wright. It is these women who unearth clues and form conclusions about what could have driven Minnie Foster to be capable of committing the murder. These women then conceal evidence from the men thereby causing the men to become outsiders.
In the beginning of the story there is a murder, and the day after the discovery of the murder, the detective, Sheriff Peters and his wife, and Mr. and Mrs. Hale go to the scene of the crime to investigate what had occurred. The men proceed in traditional detective fashion: methodically retracing every step, examining the actual site of the murder, and looking for clues, while the women are left downstairs in the kitchen where there is "nothing…but kitchen things". Therefore, the men are depicted as superior to the women, and holding authority over them. The women are not allowed to go upstairs with the men to continue investigating, nor are they asked to go to the barn- all of which are traditionally masculine places. Instead they are treated as outsiders; relinquished to the kitchen, where they can “over trifles". Things half-done; half-washed; a birdcage, with a broken door, and no bird; a box, with a dead bird inside; all the things the women discovered "while waiting for to get the evidence". The women realized that these objects could be used against Minnie, and not in a spirit of conspiracy, but one of common bondage, did they choose to conceal the afore stated evidence from the Sherriff and detective. In doing so, Mrs. Peters and Mrs. Hale caused the men to be withdrawn from the inner circle of knowledge and understanding, and instead left in the shadows, pondering the details of the murder. The transition from outsider to insider and the reversal of roles pertaining to the possession of information from male to female completes a full circuit in Susan Glaspell’s "Jury of Her Peers".
The men begin as traditional detectives, tracing the murder events, and looking for clues or evidence. However, it is the women who in the conclusion of the short fiction possess the incriminating evidence. The men also begin inside the realm of knowledge, with the women purposely left on the outskirts. Yet the conclusion again finds us with the women being on the inside, instead of the men. Just like the men, the reader is left on the outskirts of knowledge. Not reading a summation statement in the conclusion of the short fiction, but having to drawn his own conclusion as to what really occurred in the murder case of John Wright. In a sense the reader amalgamates himself with either the feminine or masculine side in the story, thereby becoming part of the jury sentencing Minnie Foster.