The Use of Symbolism in Susan Glaspell's, "A Jury of Her Peers"

Essay by Jeff DueckUniversity, Bachelor'sA-, January 1996

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Susan Glaspell's short story, A Jury of Her Peers, was written long before the

modern women's movement began, yet her story reveals, through Glaspell's use of symbolism, the role that women are expected to play in society. Glaspell illustrates how this highly stereotypical role can create oppression for women and also bring harm to men as well.

Character names are very important in A Jury of her Peers. The two characters, John and Minnie Wright, are the focus of the story. The name Minnie has significant symbolism. Minnie is derived from mini or minimized, which was very descriptive of her oppressed relationship with John and also the male insensitivity toward most women in society. Women taking their husband's last names is also very significant in the story. The women in the story are not given first names, and are referred to only as Mrs. Hale and Mrs.

Peters. The role that society has cast upon them is defined by their husbands. Mrs. Peters, who is married to the sheriff, is viewed in those terms. Mr. Peter, the county attorney, says 'for that matter a sheriff's wife is married to the law'(glaspell 168). She reinforces that identity until she is faced with the brutality of what John Wright did to Minnie. She says 'I know what stillness is. The law has got to punish Crime, Mrs. Hale'(glaspell 167). The difference is she is talking about the crime committed against Minnie, not the murder of John by Minnie.

The Rocking chair is another important symbol in the story. The chair symbolizes the absent Minnie Wright. The rocking chair 'was dingy, with wooden rungs up the back, and the middle rung was gone, and the chair sagged to one side'(glaspell 157), which was not anything like Mrs. Hale used to...