A Jury Of Her Peers: A Character Analysis
James McMasters English 112 October 17, 2000 A JURY OF HER PEERS - A CHARACTER ANALYSIS BY SUSAN GLASPELL As in the case of most, if not all, good allegorical stories, the primary impact of the tale is strongly influenced by the author’s detailed characterization of the setting, as well as the characters’ feelings and passions. Certainly such is the case in Susan Glaspell’s story “A Jury of Her Peers”. Here we see a richness of characterization and setting that is elusive at first reading, but becomes clearer as the story evolves. In the final analysis, it becomes clear just who the jury is and the outcome of their collective verdict. It is by the use of allegorical and metaphorical rhetoric that the tension of the story is maintained so very well. Initially we are introduced to a woman, Mrs. Hale, who first seems cast as a central character, if not the central focus of the story’s plot. By use of this literary diversion, the reader is intentionally mislead by focusing on the details of the patterns of her life and her overall guiding thought processes. For example, in Paragraph 1, we are shown the concept of Mrs. Hale’s inherent instinct for “neatness”, “her bread all ready for mixing, half the flour sifted and half unsifted”. Although this appears as a seemingly innocuous detail, it later becomes a key point as the plot develops, in that this trait seems to be directly opposite the nature of the accused. Mrs. Hale is shown to be a person of neatness and detail; no job is to be left unfinished, and high importance is attached to keeping a “proper” household. She is shown to be a strong woman, a woman of principle, who is concerned, if not outright ashamed, of her failure to be a good neighbor. In direct comparison to Mrs. Hale, we meet her fellow conspirator, Mrs. Peters, the wife of the sheriff. It is interesting to note that while the author makes it clear that Mrs. Hale is well suited for her role in life, that of a farmer’s wife, Mrs. Peters seems to be ill at ease being the wife of a lawman. She initially seems to lack the very force of character that is required of someone of authority, yet we understand as the plot is developed that she is instead a woman of equally strong convictions and character, and a person who can and will, in the final analysis, rise to the occasion. Finally, we are introduced to the character around which the story is centered, the accursed murderess, Mrs. Wright. She is depicted to be a person of great life and vitality in her younger years, yet her life as Mrs. Wright is portrayed as one of grim sameness, maintaining a humorless daily grind, devoid of life as we regard it in a normal social sense. Although it is clear to the reader that Mrs. Wright is indeed the culprit, she is portrayed sympathetically because of that very lack of normalcy in her daily routine. Where she was once a girl of gaiety and laughter, it is clear that over the years she has been forced into a reclusive shell by a marriage to a man who has been singularly oppressive. It is equally clear that she finally was brought to her personal breaking point, dealing with her situation in a manner that was at once final and yet inconclusive, depending on the outcome of the legal investigation. It is notable that regardless of the outcome, Mrs. Wright had finally realized a state of peace within herself, a state which had been denied her for the duration of her relationship with the deceased. For purposes of character and plot development, the men in the story are superfluous for the most part. Their major contribution to the story is their good-natured contempt of women in general, and a woman’s ability for discernment. In this case, this ignorance on their part is a fatal flaw that is at the same time a familiar one. As humans, we all are egocentric by nature, and it is only through conscious effort and will do humans become able