English Composition 1301
29 September 2014
In November of 1900, an uncommonly violent crime was committed in small town Iowa. John Hossack was found dead in his bed, killed by two swings of an ax to the skull. His wife, Margaret Hossack, was the only suspect. Due to lack of evidence and the difficulty of convicting women for murder in that time period, Margaret Hossack was released with no further charges (Carlson). The popular author and play right Susan Glaspell was inspired by this court case. In her play "Trifles" and her short story "A Jury of Her Peers", she used two average, underrated housewives in the early 1900s to show a different perspective of the Iowa crime. Through many symbols, amusing irony, and illuminating dialogue, Glaspell shows how powerful and intellectual women could be despite the suppressive culture of their time.
The most predominant literary element that Glaspell incorporates into her short story is the use of symbolism.
Observing the name of "Minnie Williams" before understanding her role, insight is already given to her character. "Minnie" sounds like miniature or small. Her name represents the way both society and her husband viewed her: small, insignificant, and unintelligent.
While their husbands and the lawmen search the Wright home for clues, Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters observe seemingly trivial details in the home of the Wrights that will prove much more than the men could ever find. When the wives discover a battered, empty bird cage, they deduce that Minnie kept a canary for about a year or so. Later, they find a dead, broken necked canary in one of Minnie's prettiest sewing boxes. It appears that Mr. Wright killed the canary in anger; what more perfect motive for his murder is needed? The cage...