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This is a story of an abused wife who kills her abusive husband (based on a true story) was told In 1916 by Susan first as play, Trifles, and then as a short story ,A Jury of Her Peers (Cohn 12). The story is written from the perspective of those closed out of the legal system- in this instance, women and how they react when that one legal system is about to destroy one of their own. Women at that time could not make homicide law as it existed in 1916: they could not be judges; they could not be legislators; and still could not vote until 1920; they could not serve on juries until the 1940s. “From college literature and women’s studies courses to law school courses as diverse as Civil Procedure and Criminal law, it is said to have caused reexamination of the morals and legal norms.” (Ayres 43)
They both tell a similar story although some very small details differ, this is to mean that the play” Trifles gives more information than the short story “Jury of the peers” since some of the unwritten information is given in the form of body language. The short story depicts that Mrs. Peters the sheriff’s wife is called upon to come with the investigation team only to collect item that Mrs. Wright (the suspect) needed while in her jail cell. Mrs. Hale who was the wife of one of the friend’s to the bereaved (the second person to see John Wright ‘s dead body after his wife)was called upon also to come join the team but only as a companion to the sheriff’s wife and nothing more. This society is depicted as one that doesn’t hold with high esteem the role of women which is revealed in the way the men treated their wives as nothing more than ‘errand people’. Mrs. Wright is shown as a housewife who is always alone in the house with no one but her canary which the women without the knowledge of their husbands found dead and kept the information hidden from their husbands.
The audience and the readers have different times in which they learnt about the death of Mr. Wright. In the short stories the readers are informed of the murder at the beginning, while in the play “Trifles” they learn about it through Mr. Hale’s exposition (Cohn 22).. In the both Mrs. Wright is supposed to be the central figure she doesn’t appear on stage, that is, in the play (Trifles), she is only referred to by the stage characters, the same may or may not hold in the short story, she still doesn’t come out in any of the conversations but according to Mr. Hale he talks about seeing her looking indifferent and distance her manner of referring to her late husband was one that could not be read into (Ayres 53). This is the only time she seems to present in a conversation, that is, in the short story.
It is clear that the women in this story did see different evidence than the men in the story. They are seen to perceive and reason from the mundane facts of an abused woman’s daily life, from “Trifles” to conclude that she killed her abusive husband. They again act as “a jury of her peers” to make conclusions based on the state of the house which they related so well to. There findings were correct but they did not find it necessary to share it with the rest of the group. Some questions come to mind when we think about the reaction of the women, did they protect Minnie because she was innocent? What if the legal system cannot reach a just outcome? Is it appropriate to circumvent the legal system?
In the play the physical language between the two women tell a tale of a desperate housewife. This unlike in the play where body language plays a big role without having to say the words is different from the short story where it has to be in black and white so as the reader understands the life of Mrs. Wright as house wife.
The short story and the play have introduced a society which depicts the woman as a housekeeper and not anything more than that. In not so many words the women’s place is in the kitchen and she is required to tend to issues pertaining to it perfectly since her rebellion means displeasure from the men(Ayres 72). For a woman it has been shown to be according to the norms of society that her lack of zeal in life or unhappiness is her problem and hers alone, why she commits a crime is never looked into whether by self defense or not the idea is that she is guilty even if no proof is brought forward she already has been judged as in the case of John’s wife. From the way the investigators exit the room and the women obediently stay behind in the kitchen it is clear that the women in this society have no voice, what is said by the men goes with no objection from the women(Cohn 56).. The idea of the childless woman is shown to be unwelcome in this community “Not having children makes less work- but it makes a quite house”. It may not be the woman’s fault but much is blamed on her.
Feminist criticism Hint: this line (The attorney and the sheriff decide that there is nothing important in the room:” Nothing here but kitchen things) is the first of many disparaging comments said to minimize the importance of women in society. They also criticize her house keeping skills in front of the two women which does not seem to come out right since they had taken Mrs. Wright out of her house without even letting her know before hand. This is from “Trifles” . The women are depicted to be of no significance to the investigation, this is seen when Mrs. Hale is called to act as a companion for Mrs. Peters the Sheriff’s wife, again the both women are left in the kitchen while the men go to investigate the crime, and this comes out as men trying to establish territory. The women are also seen to want to break out of this shell of male chauvinism when both Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters start doing there own investigation which in comparison to the men was seen to bare fruit(Ayres 143).