The story “A Jury of Her Peers” was first published in 1917 and was based on a authors one act play “Trifles”. “Trifles” was written in 1916 by Susan Glaspell. Glaspell wrote the play after an experience she had while working for a Des Moines newspaper. The significance of the title of the play, “A Jury of Her Peers” is fitting because it is about a woman that is going to be judged for the murder of her husband by her peers. How her life was with him was going to give her motive for her actions.
The play, titled “Trifles”, written by Glaspell is also significant to the story because it explains how a small thing like the bird being killed relates to Mrs. Wrights life. The bird was a literary metaphor. The bird singing brought happiness to Minnie’s house and life. When her husband strangled the bird he had also strangled Minnie by not allowing her to make friends outside the house. “Trifles”, is a better title for when the story was written, but not so much for today’s times, because this is not a word that is used very often anymore.
The title, “A Jury of Her Peers”, is a better title for our day in age. It explains better how if her peers looked at the small things in her life it would explain better as to what frame of mind she was in when the incident happened. If you compared the story to an actual trial you can see where it was like the men were the prosecutor and the women were the defense. The men never stopped in the kitchen and asked what the ladies had found. The men were not trying to find out what kind of life she lived with her husband.
The men were convinced that she had killed her husband, but wasn’t trying to find out why. The county attorney while he was at the sink said, “Dirty towels! Not much of a housekeeper, would you say, ladies? ” (Glaspell, 540) The men never wondered why she would have left the dishes. Mr. Henderson said, “…I shouldn’t say she had the homemaking instinct. ” (Glaspell, 541) Without wondering why a woman that used to be so cheerful would now have a house so uncheerful and not want to take care of her home.
The women in the story were betrayed as someone that wouldn’t know how to solve the case. This was a time period when women didn’t vote and really didn’t have an opinion to men. When the men left the kitchen they commented that, “But would the women know a clue if they did come upon it! ” (Glaspell, 541) The women payed attention to the details of the kitchen and could tell that she had stopped in the middle of something. Mrs. Hale talked about how Minnie Foster used to be so cheerful and sang in the choir. Mrs. Hale hought to herself, “What had interrupted Minnie Foster? ” (Glaspell, 542)
She remembered worrying about how she had to un-expectantly leaving her kitchen a mess. The ladies found the bird cage and noticed that it had been damaged and wondered where the bird was. Later they found the bird in the box underneath the quilt blocks. They are the ones that put two and two together about how the bird was killed and the way Minnie’s husband was killed. The reason that Minnie killed her husband or the motive created a moral dilemma with the ladies.
The ladies had figured out that Minnie killed her husband probably from a mental break after years of abuse from her husband. They understood that Minnie was a happy, cheerful person in the past and for many years had not been around and seemed unhappy. They knew what kind of person her husband was and may have figured he got what he deserved. The sheriff’s wife was reminded that she was, “…married to the law”. (Glaspell, 552)
She had the opportunity to tell her husband when they began to look at the things they were gathering for Minnie, but she didn’t, “in a covert way Mrs. Hale looked at Mrs. Peters. Mrs. Peters was looking at her. Quickly they looked away from each other”. (Glaspell, 551) The two women displayed weak moral values by keeping the canary hidden from their husbands. They were more dedicated to the female race. There are many hidden messages in this story. The significance of the title and the moral value behind why the women hide the canary from the Sheriff and county attorney plays a big role in this story. Sometimes women just need to stick together. Especially in the time period this was written in.