Symbolism In Susan Glaspell's A Jury Of Her Peers

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Knowing that “A Jury of Her Peers” was written in the period leading up to women’s suffrage by a woman, most intelligent readers would predict that the story would have a feminist theme. And they would be right. However, the way that the story’s author, Susan Glaspell, establishes this theme is far more unexpected. On its surface, the story itself is a rather disturbing murder-mystery about a woman who is believed to have murdered her husband. However, observant readers will take note of the subtleties of the story that establish the theme. So, yes, “A Jury of Her Peers” is, at its heart, a story about women being repressed by their husbands- but Glaspell establishes this theme through the use of several literary devices, especially diction, …show more content…
Perhaps the most utilized symbol in the story is the task left unfinished. It starts when Martha must go to see Mrs. Peters, leaving “Half the flour sifted and half unsifted” (1). Then, they go to the Wright’s house to find that Minnie had left her quilt unfinished and her counter in an odd state: “One half of it was wiped clean, the other half messy” (7). All of these projects were started and yet never completed: always interrupted by one thing or another. This is symbolic of how the women felt about their lives: all their goals interrupted by their home lives, left unfinished. This would explain why Martha “Hated to see things half done” (1). Another, more obvious, symbol in this story would be Minnie’s pet bird. The bird represented Minnie and her joy and aspirations. Right off the bat, we recognize that the bird in the cage demonstrates how trapped she feels. However, the situation is taken one step further. Her husband strangled the bird, representing how he took the joy out of her, and stopped her from singing (literally), as Mrs. Hale explained. “No, Wright wouldn’t like the bird… a thing that sang. She used to sing. He killed that too” (11).Also, she comes to strangle her husband just as he strangled her bird, creating a grotesque, karmic “circle of life”. Another similar symbol was her fruit preserves, which Minnie took immense pains to care for. The fruit preserves were something she cared about, but they were shattered when the women arrived at the house. The cold caused them to break, and cold continues to be a symbol at other points in the story. For example, near the beginning of the story, this exchange occurs: “The county attorney, turned around and said, ‘Come up to the fire, ladies.’ Mrs. Peters took a step forward, then stopped. ‘I 'm not--cold,’ she said” (1). Mrs. Peters’ reaction is very peculiar- taking a step forward and then stopping, as though

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