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Using Classic and Contemporary Literature to Explore Themes in Law and Politics
Unformatted Document Text:  Understanding the clues left amidst the "trifles" of the woman's kitchen, the women are able to outsmart their husbands, who are at the farmhouse to collect evidence, and thus prevent the wife from being convicted of the crime. Much of the tension in the story results from the shared understandings of the women and what the men seem oblivious to. The male characters criticize the messy kitchen and are dismissive of the clues that it contains but the women are able to determine Mrs. Wright’s frame of mind by the condition of the kitchen and other items. The women notice the old furniture and ragged clothing worn by Mrs. Wright that highlight her lonely, depressing existence brought on by her miserly and abusive husband. The women see a quilt that has crooked stitching, suggesting that Mrs. Wright must have been very upset while trying to complete the project. The two women also find a broken bird cage and Mrs. Wright’s treasured canary that had been strangled and carefully placed in a sewing basket. Based on these clues, Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters surmise that Mrs. Wright strangled her husband just as he had strangled the canary. Instead of reporting these discoveries to their husbands, the two women cover up the clues, thus quietly acquitting Mrs. Wright of the crime. Glaspell’s story is viewed as early feminist literature and it is read in many Women’s Studies programs. At the time the story was written, the male-dominated legal system generally excluded women from serving on juries except in rare “domestic” cases in which men thought that women had special expertise or understanding. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the exclusion of women from jury pools as late as 1961 in the case of Hoyt v. Florida. 19 Mrs. Hoyt was convicted of the second degree murder of her husband by a jury composed of twelve men who probably were not very sympathetic to Mrs. Hoyt. Mrs. Hoyt had assaulted her husband with a baseball bat during a heated argument over, among other things, her husband’s suspected 19 Hoyt v. Florida, 368 U.S. 57 (1961). The Florida statute read that “No female person shall be taken for jury service unless said person has registered with the clerk of the circuit court her desire to be placed on the jury list.” Page | 18

Authors: Fliter, John.
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Understanding the clues left amidst the "trifles" of the woman's kitchen, the women are able to
outsmart their husbands, who are at the farmhouse to collect evidence, and thus prevent the wife
from being convicted of the crime. Much of the tension in the story results from the shared
understandings of the women and what the men seem oblivious to. The male characters criticize
the messy kitchen and are dismissive of the clues that it contains but the women are able to
determine Mrs. Wright’s frame of mind by the condition of the kitchen and other items. The
women notice the old furniture and ragged clothing worn by Mrs. Wright that highlight her
lonely, depressing existence brought on by her miserly and abusive husband. The women see a
quilt that has crooked stitching, suggesting that Mrs. Wright must have been very upset while
trying to complete the project. The two women also find a broken bird cage and Mrs. Wright’s
treasured canary that had been strangled and carefully placed in a sewing basket. Based on these
clues, Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters surmise that Mrs. Wright strangled her husband just as he had
strangled the canary. Instead of reporting these discoveries to their husbands, the two women
cover up the clues, thus quietly acquitting Mrs. Wright of the crime.
Glaspell’s story is viewed as early feminist literature and it is read in many Women’s
Studies programs. At the time the story was written, the male-dominated legal system generally
excluded women from serving on juries except in rare “domestic” cases in which men thought
that women had special expertise or understanding. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the
exclusion of women from jury pools as late as 1961 in the case of Hoyt v. Florida.
Mrs. Hoyt
was convicted of the second degree murder of her husband by a jury composed of twelve men
who probably were not very sympathetic to Mrs. Hoyt. Mrs. Hoyt had assaulted her husband
with a baseball bat during a heated argument over, among other things, her husband’s suspected
19
Hoyt v. Florida, 368 U.S. 57 (1961). The Florida statute read that “No female person shall be taken for jury
service unless said person has registered with the clerk of the circuit court her desire to be placed on the jury list.”
Page | 18


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