This is a story about the importance of stories. Humans cannot exist without stories. We observe reality and then always create a story out of what we see. But to what extent are the stories we tell ourselves an invention? How much do we distort reality as we weave it into a narrative? Do the stories we tell say anything about reality at all? Or only about us?
In “A Jury of Her Peers,” a man is apparently murdered by his wife. While the sheriff searches the house for clues, his wife and another neighbor try to figure out what happened. The stronger-willed of the two women is, for reasons that remain unexplained, feeling resentful against men in general. She invents a story where the murderous wife is, in reality, a victim of her husband and convinces the weaker woman to go along with her narrative.
Whenever a reader might start doubting the story created by the two women, Glaspell brilliantly throws in some hooks that push the readers towards the mindset of the strong, resentful female character. Men pop in and out of the storyline to make some casually sexist comment. These comments keep the reader – who is most likely female – in line with the concocted narrative. We feel victimized by the sexist comments and likelier to believe that the murderous woman is a victim.
The title of the story makes one wonder about the capacity of any jury to notice anything at all but the stories that play in their heads on a loop. And it’s not just juries. “A Jury of Her Peers” is a standard chapter in every feminist reader when, if you keep your cool long enough to disregard the emotional hooks that the author deploys, it’s kind of the exact opposite.