Analysis Pages

Irony in A Jury of Her Peers

Use of Irony: The various male characters in the story continually belittle the female characters for their seemingly insignificant domestic chores like sewing and cooking. However, Glaspell introduces irony when these domestic “pleasantries” become the very key to solving the crime. The men consider sewing and cooking simply “trifles” and therefore never notice the uneven stitches in the quilt, a necessary clue in discovering Minnie’s motive for murder. They are so preoccupied with their own misguided investigations and derisions of the women that they fail to notice the clue that illuminates the case.

Irony Examples in A Jury of Her Peers:

A Jury of Her Peers

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"something to show..."   (A Jury of Her Peers)

Throughout the story we have seen numerous examples of men underestimating women’s capabilities and intelligence. Ironically, this very obliviousness (intentional or not) actually works in Minnie’s favor here. Although Minnie may be suspect, because the jury wrongly assumes women to be less capable or threatening, her conviction demands more solid evidence.

"little pleasantries..."   (A Jury of Her Peers)

The county attorney’s comment again belittles the women, suggesting that they are only concerned with domestic “pleasantries” like sewing. Ironically, it is precisely the women’s attention to seemingly small details that has given them a better understanding what happened than the men. It is especially ironic that the sewing itself is ultimately what tips the women off. Something that seems a “trifle” is an extremely important and telling clue that goes unnoticed by the men because they completely underestimate the significance of women’s activities or work.

"She threaded a needle and started to replace bad sewing with good...."   (A Jury of Her Peers)

To Mrs. Peters and Mrs. Hale, the uneven stitches reveal Minnie’s deteriorating mental state. While they do not know why Minnie was so nervous, they do believe that this evidence of nervousness is potentially dangerous for Minnie. Thus, Mrs. Hale automatically takes to replacing the stitches and covering up this evidence. Ironically, because the men do not value women’s work or believe that these women are capable of detecting evidence, it is unlikely that they would find significance in the uneven stitches even if Mrs. Hale did not correct them.

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