“A Jury of Her Peers” by Susan Glaspell: Transformation of the Characters of the Play “Trifles”

The sudden death of Mr. Wright leads five characters to the investigation. What happened to Mr. Wright this cold windy day? Despite the deep sadness of Mrs. Wright, everybody is sure of her complicity in the murder. At first glance, the story seems clear. Probably, it was the typical family feud. However, we shouldn’t be so confident about it. Susan Glaspell uses the same plot and characters in two different literary works. The play Trifles was written first and the short story A Jury of Her Peers repeated the plot adding more bright details.

The plot of the story is slightly based on John Hossack’s murder which the author was analyzing during her journalistic work. The main difference between the play and the story is in the way of presentation. Using the same plot and dialogues, Susan Glaspell, however, draws a more effective picture in the narrative work. Actors’ play and voices are completely replaced by the descriptive passages of the narration.

When a murder happens, everyone is sure of Mrs. Wright’s complicity. The stereotypical attitude by men cannot convince Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters. These women can add a lot to the investigation. The character of Mrs. Hale makes the narration more effective by its emotional details. Her presence in the house is just a coincidence. Marta Hale is the wife of a farmer from the next farm. She comes with the sheriff keeping company his wife. It is Mrs. Hale who finds the purpose of the murder. This ironic woman knows Mrs. Wright from her childhood. The cues of Mrs. Hale are full of guilty feelings. She was too busy to visit her old friend. While men are trying to find any clue, Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters are left in the kitchen where they start thinking about the causes of the crime. The scene in the kitchen where the attorney is interviewed by Mrs. Hale demonstrates the difference between the approach of play and narration. The short story clearly shows the characters of the investigators. Mrs. Hale sees the changes that happened with her old friend Minnie Foster – Mrs. Write. Mrs. Hale expresses empathy for the rural life of Mrs. Wright.

Mrs. Hale finds the missing link which can prove Mrs. Wright’s guilt, while men are looking for the clue. But, Mrs. Hale finds herself commiserating. She understands the position of Mrs. Wright and feels that killing someone’s freedom and individuality is the same crime as murder. The relationship between women transforms from cold blame to deep comprehension and repentance. Women note that Minnie used to sing. After the marriage, she couldn’t do anything which would bring pleasure. Minnie is strangled by her husband. Again, Mrs. Hale feels sorry for those lonely years of Mrs. Wright. Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters notice many details about Minnie’s life which men can’t see. The image of the kitchen helps understand the situation and the whole picture of Mrs. Wright’s life. The isolation, broken furniture, the old and ragged clothes show the miserly insensitivity of Mr. Wright. Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters are thinking about the transformation of Minnie’s character from a once sociable and happy woman to those depressive feelings after marrying her cold and miserly husband. Mrs. Hale’s deep connection with the old friend doesn’t allow telling men the truth. Sherif’s wife is thinking about her depression because she lost a child. Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters cover many evident facts of Mrs. Wright’s complicity.

The depression of the story comes for years, and, as the result, this leads to the death of Mr. Wright. The story ends in the house. There is no answer about the future.

The male characters present themselves as proficient detectives. However, they can’t find serious evidence. Susan Glaspell shows them as self-confident and egotistical persons. All their attitudes and approaches are pompous and ineffective. Nevertheless, not only do women hide the truth, men steal the box with the dead bird. This action can be considered as an exception that shows loyalty and mercy.

Adapted from the one-act play Trifles, the narrative A Jury of Her Peers has more emotional depth than the play. The presence of vivid details makes the picture brighter. For instance, at the end of the story, Mrs. Peters’s actions are full of emotions. A vivid dramatic description of the events is demonstrated by the emotional expression. In this case, word choice can easily replace the actor’s play. Additionally, the narration describes the setting of the story which allows seeing the whole picture of the vivid scenes.

The symbols of the story emphasize the present picture. Mrs. Wright devoted her life to the kitchen and other housework. As the cold water freezes the jars of jam, the house’s environment froze her spirit (Glaspell 36). The male characters as the symbol of law show us the rationality and lack of emotions. Women characterize by emotions and intuitiveness. However, such a psychoanalytic way gives the result while men’s cold logic is lost in the guesses.

Even the name of the play is a symbol of the relationships between men and women where men are considered as trifles. The lack of understanding can lead to different conflicts. The story of Minnie Wright and her husband shows the consequence of such a clash. The name of the narration also clearly indicates the symbol of two Minnie juries who search for the truth. However, the relationships between the two genders can’t boast sincerity. The story attracted the attention of feminist supporters because of its gender-related theme. Indeed, the story that seems like a simple detective shows touches upon the serious gender conflict. The reader can see the world of the struggling woman in a male-dominated society. Susan Glaspell created the story with a female jury to show their form of justice different from male’s one. The men in the story are portrayed as quite insignificant. They can be valuable only by observing the domestic arena. However, even here male characters can’t find an appropriate solution and the right decision. As the result, the women who should be just assistants become the true investigators that can solve the problem and find the motives. The women are the jury on Mrs. Wright’s case.

Susan Glaspell’s works are great sources of research of the men’s and women’s approaches to investigation. The stories of Glaspell can be called feministic for their description of women’s spirit and emphasis on men’s neutrality. Using the plot and characters of Trifles, Susan Glaspell created an absolutely new bright narrative story A Jury of Her Peers. Numerous details and emotions bring new air to the plot which can get more understanding and empathy.

Works Cited

Glaspell, Susan. A Jury of Her Peers. US: Kessinger Publishing, LLC, 2004. Print.

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