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Gender's Role in “A Jury of Her Peers”

The separation between men and women is a conflict that leads to murder in Susan Glaspell’s “A Jury of Her Peers”. Women have always been isolated from the male-dominated world, and now one woman named Minnie Foster (Mrs. Wright) has murdered her husband, Mr. Wright, in an attempt to free herself from the chains of oppression. The women stand together and protect her from the law because they can empathize with her feelings of confinement. The discovery of John Wright’s death prompts a large and seemingly in-depth investigation, yet it is the women who find the solitary evidence, independently from the men, which they with-hold in order to protect Minnie Foster. The men do not believe that the women could find anything of any importance. Women as a gender are falsely believed to be unimportant and unequal, unable to participate in certain duties because of second-class citizen status, which causes women to be more connected to each other and able to strike back at an arrogant, controlling, male-dominated society.

The women are controlled and caged by the men in their community. Everything the women do is unimportant or insignificant, especially when compared to the tasks of the men. The women are quarantined to the kitchen, along with the “insignificant…kitchen things”, which they are regarded as. “Women are used to worrying about trifles”, and the men ironically laugh at any of the women’s comments, even though it is the women who hold the incriminating evidence. Mr. Hale wonders if “the women would know a clue if they did come upon it.” They do find a birdcage, which symbolizes the confines that men place on their wives. Minnie Foster (no longer referred to as Mrs. Wright after her liberation) is just like the bird's neck, snapped under her husband's pressure. Both the cage door and the house door are also broken, in turn symbolically freeing the inhabitants from their confines (if only for death or life in prison). Minnie Foster has killed her husband, therefore escaping her captor.

The women, being in the same situations, have a tendency to search for strength and companionship in each other. Even the men constantly put all the women into a single group. The women have a “sympathetic understanding” of Minnie Foster. Mr. Hale notices one woman being “loyal to her sex”, as all of the women are. Her friends’ caring shows that Minnie Foster really does have a “Jury of Her Peers”. Mrs. Hale, though, wishes they had all been closer to Minnie Foster, and that she “had come over to see Foster sometimes”. Mrs. Hale thinks that more companionship may have prevented the murder. She goes as far as saying that not visiting Minnie “was a crime”, one that resulted in the loss of one person to death and another to jail.

The women have been forced to band together. Their oppressive lives keep them at a low social level, constantly wearing them down mentally. Men keep these women physically and mentally confined, forcing them to take action against this painful way of life. Women are believed to be unimportant and unable to participate in some duties due to a second-class citizen status, causing them to be more connected to each other and ready to seek revenge against an arrogant, male-dominated society.