Symbolism in the story “Jury of Her Peers”

In the short story “Jury of her peers”, Susan Glaspell has used symbolism in many of the instances. From the names of the main characters to chairs and birds, she used many symbols to symbolize different things and feelings.

The names of the characters are very significant in this story. The story focuses much on the characters John and Minnie Wright. The name Minnie is used symbolically. The word Minnie is derived from minimized which is a description of her broken relationship with John and also the insensitivity towards women in the society by men. The act of women taking their husbands names is also very symbolic in this story. The role placed on women by the society is defined by their husbands. For example, Mrs. Peter is married to Mr. Peter, who is a sheriff. The court attorney says, “For that matter a sheriff’s wife is married to the law.” She manages to reinforce this identity until the brutality of what John did to Minnie faces her.  She says, “I know what stillness is. The law has got to punish Crime”. Notice here she is talking about the crime committed not by John but the crime committed to Minnie.

Another important symbol in the story is the Rocking chair. The chair symbolizes the absence of Minnie Wright. Glaspell wrote that the rocking chair “was dingy, with wooden rungs up the back, and the middle rung was gone, and the chair sagged to one side”. This was not like Mrs. Hale used to remember it. The rocking chair had for years depreciated just like Minnie though Minnie changed due to the abuse by John. The abuse imprisoned her in a mentally devastating stereotype and denied her individuality.

Another important symbol in the story is the bird and the birdcage. Before marriage, Minnie was “kind of like a bird herself-real sweet and pretty, but timid and fluttery” as described by Mrs. Hales.  Minnie is trapped in an abusive relationship with John just like a bird is trapped in its cage. Just like John strangles the bird literally, he figuratively strangles the life out of Minnie. When he killed the bird, he finished the last bit of Minnie’s spirit. The bird and the cage are symbols of the role women are forced to have in the society with the bird being women and cage being men.

Towards the end of the story, Minnie strangles the life out of John just like he strangled the life out of the bird. Another symbol is the quilt that Mrs. Peter and Mrs. Hale came across. Minnie had put the scraps in a neat quilt, but one square of the quilt was sewn haphazardly. This was symbolic of her life since she was neat on the outside but made of scrap inside.  Susan Glaspell has applied symbolism in her story to make it interesting and understandable. Her use of these symbols is very influential in the understanding of different themes in the story.

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