During the 19th century, women were obligated to follow the wants of their husbands who had complete power of every little thing. They had a limited say in any decision and had to burden themselves with their thoughts as their opinions were never prioritized. Constantly in the world around us, people are influenced by the expectations put into place. Many times through understanding and acceptance people can acquire different perspectives of a situation. Martha Hale begins by feeling guilty after never visiting Minnie Wright once she realizes what living in a society that women have no control to follow their own desires creates. She changes her view on Minnie Wright as she begins to perceive what it is like to try and please the patriarchal rules of society. Looking through a feminist lens, in “A Jury of Her Peers” by Susan Glaspell, Martha Hale’s attitude toward Minnie Wright’s guilt shifts from fearful disengagement to compassionate understanding condemning the depth of the patriarchal mindset on women of the time period.
In “A Jury of Her Peers” Martha Hale’s attitude toward Minnie Wright’s guilt begins as being fearful disengagement. As Martha, Mrs. Peters, Mr.Peters, Mr. Hale and the sheriff are investigating, the sheriff begins to question Martha. He starts off asking “’But you and Mrs. Wright were neighbors. I suppose you were friends, too.’ ‘…And why was that? You didn’t like her?’ ‘I liked her well enough,’ she replied with spirit. ‘Farmers’ wives have their hands full, Mr. Henderson. And then–‘ She looked around the kitchen. ‘Yes?’ he encouraged. ‘It never seemed a very cheerful place,’ said she, more to herself than to him” (Glaspell 4). The attorney uses the word “friends” to describe the relationship between Martha and Minnie after being neighbors for 20 years. After living next to someone for years one would assume there is a bond of mutual affection, but Martha exclaims that she has only seen a little of her in the last years which is unusual since they are consistently around.
The sheriff concludes that since they have been living next to each other for years that they should be close, but Martha should have the ability to choose whom she wants to interact with. Furthermore, Martha is forced to justify her reasoning when asked the questions “And why was that? You didn’t like her?” by the county sheriff when in reality it does not relate to investigation in any way. Martha is busy fulfilling farming duties, portrays that she is prevented from exploring the world around her as her duties of laborious hours of work comes first. She does not have time to visit Minnie Wright causing her to be disengaged. The positive connotative diction of the word “cheerful” portrays something being full of spirit and happiness. Martha describing Minnie’s house as not being cheerful, additionally, adds to her unattachment toward her. Martha isn’t able to think for herself on whether she wants to go visit Minnie’s house but is rather influenced by the society around her. Even though she has never been inside Minnie’s house or have talked to Minnie in years she fears it which demonstrates an stereotype within women. Woman are seen as weak and often as being easily manipulated into believing anything society puts forth.
In “A Jury of Her Peers” Martha Hale’s attitude toward Minnie Wright’s guilt chances to compassionate understanding. After Martha and Mrs.Peters find out that Minnie Wright had been piecing a quilt before she had been placed in jail they realized a few of the stitches had not been done right. As Martha begins to fix the stitch, she proclaims “‘But I tell you what I do wish, Mrs. Peters. I wish I had come over sometimes when she was here. I wish–I had. I stayed away because it weren’t cheerful–and that’s why I ought to have come. I wish I had come over to see Minnie Foster sometimes. I can see now–’She did not put it into words” (Glaspell 8). Through the use of repetition of the words “I wish I had ” Glaspell is demonstrating that Martha is beginning to feel guilty about never visiting Minnie Wright’s house. She thinks that by re-stitching the quilt she is not afraid to interfere with Minnie’s possessions, and that she wishes she could help Minnie now that it is too late to do so. By repeating each sentence with the word “I” Glaspell is elucidating that Martha is constantly blaming herself for the wrongdoing. This creates an remorseful attitude in which she could have been able to prevent the actions Minnie potentially committed toward her husband. To furthermore emphasis Martha’s regret, Glaspell uses hyphens between sentences to illustrate that she having to think rapidly about what she wants to say next exemplifying how overwhelmed she is by the thought of the whole situation. Martha begins to feel sympathy causing her to conceal the evidence they have found showing that she is a performing an act of rebellion against men and the patriarchal society. She changes her perspective and relates to Minnie as reaches a realization that they both suffer under the power of their husbands. Martha recognizes that Minnie will never be understood by other, but since Martha is also a women, it allows Minnie’s actions to be judge in a practical way.
Through a feminist lense, Susan Glaspell amplifies Martha Hale’s attitude toward Minnie Wright’s guilt from being fearful disengagement to compassionate understanding in order to criticize the depth of the patriarchal mindset on women of the time period. As Martha begins by being disengaged from Minnie Wright she changes her view and begins to acknowledge her.