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Comparison S. Glaspell’s Play “Trifles” and “A Jury of Her Peers”


Susan Glaspell’s play Trifles and her short story ‘A Jury of Her Peers’ are the one that shake readers’ consciousness of the woman existence among men in the beginning of the twentieth century. These are the two literary works presenting the same story differently. The both writing are significant, though in ‘Jury of Her Peers’ the Wrights seem to be judged mainly, whereas in ‘Trifles’ the plot focuses on Mrs. Peters and Mrs. Hale’s finding trifles and explanations that led to the motive. So, Glaspell’s ‘Trifles’ does not give her full power to describe Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters ‘ discovery of Minnie’s motive for murder. ‘Trifles’ is much briefer and entails emotions within the played scenes. However, it is evident that the moment of the motive discovery in ‘Jury’ is more successive, hence Mrs. Hale understands Minnie deeper and the situation of Mrs. Wright seems to be more harrowing. So, the two works under consideration have the same plot, though the means of conveying it to the readers are different, namely, the genres in which the stories are performed are the detective story and drama. The two significant differences between the versions are emotional appeal of drama and gradually unveiling detective short story.

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Different Approaches to the Same Plot

‘A Jury of Her Peers’ is likely to be more effective in terms of describing the images of division of labor and social parts than the play Trifles. Taking separately the contexts of the two writing, disregarding the acting in the play, ‘Jury’s’ manner of representation of women’s discrimination as per having opinion about ‘manly’ affairs far exceeds and is more vivid. It is the description of murder investigation that makes a reader understand the position of females those times, which is perfectly depicted in both works, though more descriptive in ‘Jury’.

The play Trifles was created in 1916 and ‘Jury’ appeared in 1917. This time period framed a very certain role for women as housewives keeping to their own household chores and not more. Moreover, the women had to act lower than man and they were socially and morally unable to interfere in matters of importance. Interpreting women’s responsibilities by men was worse yet. While men had a chance to investigate serious matter including performance of deducting methods, women were thought of as incapable to think logically. Their chores were war downgraded and somewhat disrespected.

Similarity in Genres’ Representation

The two writings, however, have their own peculiar features inherent in specific genres. Glaspell is trying to convey the genres the works belong to from the very beginning, so that the reader is aware of how to absorb the thought delivered. For example, the short story ‘A Jury of Her Peers’ has the first paragraph describing the later scene of the entire plot, whereas in Trifles it is left to reader’s own guess and imagination. ‘Jury’ has Mrs. Hale’s thoughts reverberating throughout the scenes as insight; this gives a details description for the reader to go along with the plot and its disclosure (Glaspell, p.190), while in Trifles there is no mention of such.

“Although Glaspell’s critical examination of social issues is not limited to the role of women,” (Black. p.50) the first actual sign of marginalization of women appears when Mr. Hale says: ‘But would the women know a clue if they did come upon it?” (Glaspell, p. 196). This is a wonderful representation of the difference between the works. There is no such a mention in Trifles. ‘Jury’ elaborates on how fickle and absurd women are to come to a conclusion of murder’s motive. This constitutes that men’s set of mind and overall position in society was put higher, and they argued politics and business to be important, while women’s work was inconsequential.

Major Theme of A Jury of Her Peers. Significance of Genre

Both perspectives of one story are considered today to be the feminist classics, and attracted much attention of feminist scholars. The short story unveils the predicaments of women within man’s society in the beginning of the twentieth century. It is believed that the story was specifically designed (based on real events) in order to create a crew of female peers within a story to invent their own certain form of justice. Therefore, this explains the choice of the story’s title: the main feature of the plot is the jury of her peers, not the means by which protagonists got their clues. The significance of the short story’s genre is that the reader is more likely to investigate the case together with the author rather than sympathizing Mrs. Wright. So, the actual detective plot is on the surface. The story, being written in 1917 is more about representing of the female oppression. This is the leitmotif and the stress of the entire episode. (Aarons. P. 145)

The author used the genre of detective short story greatly for presenting the issues of inflexible stereotypes and the differences of gender roles. As such, the men in the short story do not seem to acknowledge the evident fact of Minnie’s oppression, which led her to commit the murder. The men’s views of fact and law reflect our traditional legal system, which men created and continue to dominate. (Angel )Moreover, the same attitude is observed towards every female in the story. Men do not consider domestic affairs to be significant, yet they think only weaker sex – women – are obliged to handle it. This is exactly what gives Glaspell enviable advantage within this story over ‘Trifles’ – detective genre gives an opportunity to the reader to understand Minnie’s position and literally step into her shoes. Being a marvelous genre feature, this is also a great privilege that Glaspell uses in order to unearth deep issues of women treatment during those times. Nevertheless, the detective story depicts the situation of wives outwitting their husbands craftily. This leads them to become the witnesses of the murder’s investigation, disclosure, so they ultimately found themselves being the judges and the juries on Minnie’s case.

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Therefore, it has to be notices here that the detective story written after the play ‘Trifles’ is a wonderful representation of the women’s rights abuse, which aroused fierce debates back in the days; the genre of detective story makes it more possible to follow the plot disregarding the emotional appeal.

Major Themes of Trifles. Significance of Drama

While the two literary works have the same plot and the thought of female suppression is conveyed to the reader, still the means of addressing the same problem are different due to different genres plots are presented in. So, Trifles is the play in which various themes are explicitly unveiled. Of course, the theme of women’s oppression is the main one for the plot is likely to be based on it. Besides, the actual title choice opens a whole new understanding of the plot within this work. Namely, while women pay attention to different trifles within domestic domain, men are being totally unaware of the clue to motive.

The downgrading of women’s chores is explicitly seen throughout the play. Moreover, this happens to be a crucial issue for the men’s self-assertion and Minnie’s life. Once Henderson observes the kitchen of Mrs. Wright, his conclusion is far from flattering: he says she lacks “the homemaking instinct,” which was supposed to mean the emotional state of home as well as the cleanness of the house. (Glaspell, p. 2)

Another theme touched upon within this genre is loneliness of Minnie. Of course, the play’s genre presupposes more than mere case investigation, as such Glaspell makes her way of narration to the loneliness of Mrs. Wright. Although she was married, her husband resembled nothing but a hard man, with whom Minnie felt lonely, all the more living in an age of women discrimination. So, she became overwhelmed with the desire of revenge as an ultimate cause of her loneliness. This is one of the perspectives the genre of drama is exercised through.

Presenting a different perspective then ‘Jury’, ‘Trifles’ representation is more empathic ultimately. Though at eh beginning of the play the image of Mrs. Wright is nothing more than a bizarre quantity, by the end of Trifles the reader/audience gets a clear understanding of who Minnie is through paraphernalia in the kitchen and Mrs. Hale’s random memories. This theme is a remarkable feature of the drama genre because of common performance of protagonists within this genre. Namely, it is important that Mrs. Wright has never been too social or invited to many neighboring houses for a cup of tea. This is what makes Mrs. Hales empathize because she thinks she could have pulled Minnie out of her disastrous way of life. Moreover, the drama genre entails here Mrs. Peters and Mrs. Hale’s acknowledgment similarities between theirs and a murderer’s lives. Thus, having the key to the motive they decide to protect Minnie no matter what. This concept has several meaning: first of which is unifying against the law that drew them to this kind of life, the second is that they protect her from knowing about her ruined preserves. All the more, Mrs. Hale, while investigating the case through various things unnoticed to men, decides that she must protect Minnie because she has failed understanding her sad state before.


As a result the play ‘Trifles’ and a short story ‘A Jury of Her Peers’ introduces a great struggle between men and women. What is even more important, is not their actual roles in the society of those days, rather it is the power of observation given to men and women by birth and framed according to the society rules ultimately. It is interesting that the same author of two literary works presented the story from two different perspectives, two different angles using the genres of detective story and drama, which major requirements is ‘a dramatic construction with the emotional effects of plays on audience’ (Gregory, p. 402). The different themes are considered in the plot of two versions paying tribute to the requirements of genres.

Works Cited

Aarons, Victoria. A Community of Women: Surviving Marriage in the Wilderness. In Portraits of a Marriage in Literature. Ed. Anne C. Hargrove and Maurine Magliocco. Macomb, IL: Western Illinois University, 1984. 141-49. Also in Rendezvous: Idaho State University Journal of Arts and Letters 21.2 (1986): 3-11.

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Angel, Marina. Criminal Law and Women: Giving the Abused Woman Who Kills A Jury of Her Peers Who Appreciate Trifles. American Criminal Law Review 33 (1996): 229+.

Black, Cheryl. Making Queer New Things”: Queer Identities in the Life and Dramaturgy of Susan Glaspell. 2005.

Glaspell, Susan, et al. Her America: “”A Jury of Her Peers”” and Other Stories. Iowa City: University Of Iowa Press 2010. Print.

Glaspell, Susan, et al. Trifles. Van Nuys: D’arts Publishing, 2009. Print.

Gregory, Justina. A Companion to Greek Tragedy. San Francisco: Wiley-Blackwell, 2008. Print.

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