“A Jury of Her Peers” Speaks Volumes Above “Trifles”
While Susan Glaspell’s drama “Trifles” uses actors to vocalize the many emotions of the story of the investigation of Minnie Wright, her short story “A Jury of Her Peers” makes the emotions very clear without
making a sound. Susan Glaspell’s short story “A Jury of Her Peers” makes the reader feel the emotions evoked by Minnie Wright’s story much deeper than her drama version of the same story, “Trifles”. Glaspell uses basically the same dialogue and action in both works but she is able to elicit much stronger feelings in her short story by including descriptive passages to accompany the dialogue in her narration. These passages evoke intense feelings from the characters and introduce new emotions. The introduction of new feelings gives the story a more passionate impact on the reader and more emotional depth. The emotional depth of “A Jury of Her Peers” allows the characters sentiments to be felt by the reader more easily than the sentiments conveyed by the drama “Trifles”. The intensity and range of emotions created by Glaspell’s use of narration makes the emotional impact of “A Jury of Her Peers” greater than that of “Trifles”.
In “A Jury of Her Peers” and “Trifles”, the characters’ emotions are not only stated in the dialogue but are also expressed through their actions. The narration in “A Jury of Her Peers” makes these emotions more vivid by exaggerating the characters’ actions which places more emphasis on the feelings that provoked the action. In “Trifles”, the passage “We don’t know who killed him. We don’t know.” is delivered by Mrs. Peters “With rising voice” (Speech 130). But in “A Jury of Her Peers”, Glaspell has Mrs. Peters whisper the same passage “wildly” as if she is frantic to believe Minnie is innocent (182). Both passages use the same words, but the passage from “A Jury of Her Peers” has a stronger emotional impact simply because of the exaggerated expression of Mrs. Peters in the descriptive narration of the story.
The use of exaggerated actions makes the emotions of characters such as Mrs. Peters and Mrs. Hale seem more real to the reader and prompts the reader to experience exact emotions. Glaspell introduces precise wording into her short story version to bring out specific feelings from her characters. In “Trifles”, Minnie’s skirt is scrutinized by Mrs. Hale while in “A Jury of Her Peers” Mrs. Hale handles Minnie’s “shabby black skirt” with “carefulness” (Glaspell 178). By introducing more descriptive text, Glaspell makes Mrs. Hale’s compassion for Minnie evident to the reader. Glaspell’s new descriptive text in her short story empowers the characters with a broader range of emotions and this entices the reader to relate with the characters on a more personal level.
As well as giving more impact to the characters emotions and introducing some new sentiments, Glaspell also uses new passages of text to describe the setting of the story. New passages of text included in “A Jury of Her Peers” allow Glaspell to have more emotional impact on the reader by describing the setting of the story for the reader. In “A Jury of Her Peers”, the setting of the story is established by Glaspell before the characters ever enter the farmhouse. Glaspell’s initial description of the farmhouse is described with Mrs. Hale’s thought “it looked very lonesome” as the party of characters approach the house (“A Jury of Her Peers”, 172). This foreshadows the loneliness of Minnie’s existence. In “Trifles”, Glaspell describes the setting as an “abandoned farmhouse of John Wright, a gloomy kitchen” at the beginning of the play (1291). While this does tell the reader something about the setting, it does not evoke emotion as well as the narration in “A Jury of Her Peers”. The fact that Glaspell describes the setting well enough for the reader to envision the scene in his mind gives her short story version the ability to leave a more poignant impression on the reader. This ability makes “A Jury of Her Peers” more successful at conveying the emotions of the characters and the reasons for the characters actions to the reader than “Trifles”.
While Susan Glaspell’s drama “Trifles” is a great work of drama, her short story “A Jury of Her Peers” leaves the reader with a greater degree of emotional involvement. Her use of description and narration brings the characters emotions and actions to life in the reader’s imagination. The use of precise wording in the text elicits from the reader specific emotions that are conveyed by the characters and settings. Glaspell’s use of basically the same dialogue and setting in both works makes the story familiar to the reader, but the emotions of the characters are explored more fully by the author in “A Jury of Her Peers”. Glaspell’s exploration of the character’s emotions and actions and the setting of the story is highly effective at impacting the reader more fully in the short story version. This effectiveness gives “A Jury of Her Peers” the advantage of greater emotional impact than its predecessor “Trifles”.
Roberts, Edgar V. and Henry E. Jacobs, eds. Literature: An Introduction to Reading and Writing. 8th ed. Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall, 2007.
Glaspell, Susan. “A Jury of Her Peers.” Roberts and Jacobs 172-84.
—. “Trifles.” Roberts and Jacobs 1291-1300.