Haven’t heard of her? You’re not alone. Last week, I came across Susan Glaspell’s short story, “A Jury of Her Peers,” while looking for new works to add to my American literature curriculum. Glaspell, called “American drama’s best-kept secret” by the British press, was a turn-of-the-century powerhouse who packed her easy-to-read story with tons of symbolism and controversy for students to discuss. Think of a more accessible Kate Chopin.
Glaspell’s story, an adaptation of her one-act play, Trifles, centers on the murder of a farmer and the investigation of the prime suspect, his wife. Because it’s based on a play, the story is dialogue-driven and moves quickly. It’s perfect material for a Readers’ Theater.
Did I build a bunch of cool tools that’ll help us use this story in class? You know I did!
The story, published in 1917, is in the public domain. My download includes a suggested lesson plan and a full-text version of the story to use in class, but you can also read it here or here or here.
There’s a symbolism harvesting activity that asks students to focus on these elements: coldness/winter; the location of the Wright home; the roller towel in the kitchen; the jars of cherry preserves; Mrs. Hale’s repair of Mrs. Wright’s poor sewing; and the bird and/or the bird cage.
Glaspell’s life as a journalist-turned-playwright is also compelling stuff, so I added an author biography research grid organizer to my collection, too
Even if you don’t need my set of materials, I do hope you give Glaspell’s work a read. I can’t get her Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters out of my head.
Teach on, everyone!
Bird photo credit: Julia Craice, Unsplash, Public domain