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“My!” she began, in a high, false voice, “it’s a good thing the men couldn’t hear us! Getting all stirred up over a little thing like a – dead canary.”
I find Susan Glaspell’s 1916 “A Jury of Her Peers” entertaining in the sense that it’s a well-told mystery. Set in the late 19th century or the early 20th century, Sherriff Peters grabs Mr. Hale to investigate a crime committed at a neighbor’s house. As Mrs. Peters comes along, Mr. Hale brings his wife.
At the now-empty crime scene, the men condescendingly leave their wives in the kitchen while they investigate upstairs. They make fun of their wives to the point that I had to wonder why they brought them along but no story would exist without them. As the men are upstairs acting like they know everything, the wives putter around the kitchen and slowly unravel the tragic story that occurred.
It’s fascinating the way the wives only talk to each other when they have to and they exchange such knowing glances without ever saying a word. Their discoveries contrast nicely with the mens’ lack of knowledge adding just the right touch of humor for the reader. The story that the women piece together, though, gives a more sinister contrast to the male/female conflict.
By the end of the story, the women exchange one more look of understanding as they decide not to tell their husbands what they have found. If one is fond of mysteries (which I’m usually not), this is a good one.
“A Jury of Her Peers” is included in my copy of The Best American Short Stories of the Century edited by John Updike. I read it when I selected the Nine of Clubs for Week 25 of my Deal Me In 2018 short story project. My Deal Me In list is here. Deal Me In is hosted by Jay at Bibliophilopolis.