Go back to the Henry page for more texts and other resources.

A Municipal Report and A Jury of Her Peers

Comparisons and contrasts relating to human life.

In ?A Municipal Report? by O. Henry and ?A Jury of Her Peers? by Susan Glaspell, the authors provide a disappearance of evidence about a retaliatory murder, but only one is true to human life and shows characteristics about human life while the other falsifies it. In this case ?A Municipal Report? is most definitely the one that fixes the story to merely entertain the reader, and ?A Jury of Her peers? lets go the true character of mankind.
In ?A Municipal Report? O. Henry tells the story in a first person perspective through a man who thinks he is detached from the world. In O. Henry?s story we see that certain characters stand out among the rest by the details that he gives us. The author?s tone in, ?I stepped off the train at 8 P.M.,? is meant to appear nonchalant to give a feel that the narrator is merely an observer in the story. The characterization in the story is also unrealistically portrayed. Azalea Adair is a poor woman who, despite how needy she is, tells the narrator, ?You must have a cup of tea.? She is depicted as a good character without a single bad bone in her body. That would only be meant for the story since O. Henry could have set her up more realistically than a helpless princess needing to be rescued. Another character that defies human reality is Ceasar. He is shown to be a good character as well, giving Azalea his money and helping her out when she needs him. There is nothing bad about Ceasar that would make the reader dislike him. He is the classic knight in shining armor that could only be set up in a fantasy world. Next is the evil man Caswell. The narrator, who says, ?I have seen few men whom I have so instantaneously hated,? also shows how annoying he was to be around. The narrator also constantly notices that Caswell has money that was once Azalea?s suggesting that he stole her money. It is pretty much assumed that Caswell fought with Azalea?s little Negro girl when the reporter hears, ?deep, gruff tones of an angry man?s voice mingled with the girls further squeals and unintelligible words.? The depiction of these characters only has value in the entertainment world since there is no real variation in the characters. Lastly there is the narrator himself. He is a character that gets very much involved in what happens in the town, even though he feels otherwise. He gives Caesar the two dollars he asks for, which he gives to Azalea, and then Caswell steals. He also gives Azalea fifty dollars in advance out of kindness, which leads to Caswell stealing again, and ultimately results in his death. Finally he kept some valuable evidence from authorities when he threw out Caesar?s button. All this involvement and yet he still feels uninvolved by saying, ?I wonder what?s doing in Buffalo!? His reply to everything he has done to the little city of Nashville is a simple rub-off-the-shoulder and move on attitude. This is a very artificial perspective of human life through this mans eyes. Furthermore, the attention to detail in this story is very coincidental in the case that he always manages to go into depth with things that will be brought up later. He talks about so many things in great detail all around him. Some things people normally do not notice, but he manages to point out. He talks about Caesars coat and mentions what the lone button on it ?was the size of a half-dollar, made of yellow horn and sewed on with coarse twine.? He notices the very thing that will show the reader that Caesar killed Caswell in the final scene in the story. The reporter also notices and remembers that his dollar that he gives Caesar has ?a strip of blue tissue paper, pasted over the split, preserved in its negotiability.? This detail is important because when he spots it in Azalea?s hands we know that Azalea is helped financially by Caesar. It is also important, because when we se it in Caswell?s hands we know that he is stealing from Azalea. Without that one strange detail, the connection may never have been made. Another coincidence is when Caswell is dead; the narrator is there to see something fall out of Caswell?s right hand. The object that falls is miraculously the important detail of Caesar?s coat button. Since the narrator was there to hide the button he throws the evidence away. The unrealistic depiction of the story is proven throughout the entire story and becomes purely a story of entertainment.
In ?A Jury of Her Peers? Susan Glaspell tells the story from a third person point of view through Martha Hale. She sets up the atmosphere that most people would feel after a death. There is a dark and lonely mood set up for the reader when Mrs. Hale notices the Wright place, ?looked lonesome this cold march morning. It had always been a lonesome-looking place.? Mrs. Hale always seemed troubled being in the house and was constantly reflecting. When Martha says, ?I wish I had come over sometimes when she was here,? shows that she regrets not being a very good friend to Minnie, and also leads to her unlawful actions. The use of dashes is another key tone setter in the story. The characters Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters are constantly shown to be hesitating or thinking to themselves by the use of dashes. For example, when Martha compares Minnie to a bird she says, ?She?come to think of it, she was kind of like a bird herself? but kind of timid and?fluttery.? This use of the dash shows when the characters are thinking about what they are saying. This device is used affectively to show that Martha and Mrs. Peters are both human. The characters in the story are very realistic, since they have many qualities. Mrs. Hale is a woman who likes a clean house. When she left to be with Mrs. Peters in the Wright?s house, ?what her eye took in was that her kitchen was in no shape for leaving.? She also sympathizes for Minnie when the men rudely talk about her kitchen. In the story we also learn that Martha sympathizes for Minnie?s hardships and conceals evidence that could prove to be a motive. Mrs. Peters is the wife of the sheriff and according to the men; she is ?married to the law!? She appears to respect the law very much but has a weak stomach for action. When Mrs. Peters learns about the bird and a possible motive for Minnie killing John she becomes confused and does not know what to do. She wants to follow the law but at the same time she feels for Minnie when, ?she broke?she could not touch the bird. She stood helpless, foolish.? Conflicts within these two characters make them very humanoid and can very well pull out certain aspects of human life. The men in the story are realistically portrayed as obstacles. They come and go as the law enforcers who would very likely take any evidence. To show they are not just law enforcers however, they have ?a laugh in the ways of the women? when the women talk about Minnie?s quilt. The way the women approach their attention to detail in the story is sensible since everything that they notice is involved in what they are doing. Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters notice that there is a knot in Minnie?s knitting. Being women they could be fairly sure that she was frustrated. Another time Mrs. Hale looks for some scissors; she finds a ?pretty box? with ?the? bird in it. When they see the dead bird, it only makes sense that they see that the bird?s neck is broken, and so they examine it. When they look at it they see that ?somebody wrung its neck.? Since John Wright was strangled by a rope there could easily be a motive spotted. The natural movements of the women led them to details that solved their mystery and the people had practical characteristics that did not make the story any less realistic.
The styles of ?A Municipal Report? and ?A Jury of Her Peers? differed greatly in the sense of realism. While O. Henry?s story obviously served the entertaining purpose with the unpractical sense of characters and development, Glaspell?s story had a meaningful interpretation of life with pragmatic characters that could reflect human life.

Works Cited
Glaspell, Susan. ?A Jury of Her Peers.? Literature: Structures, Sound, and Sense. Eds Laurence Perrine and Thomas R. Arp. San Diego: HBJ, 1991. 324-41
O. Henry. ?A Municipal Report.? Perrine and Arp 312-24.
Perrine, Laurence. Analysis of ?A Jury of Her Peers?. Instructors Manual to accompany Literature: Structure, Sound, and Sense. San Diego: HBJ, 1991. 41-43
---. Analysis of ?A Municipal Report.? Instructors Manual 40-41.

Authors | Quotes | Digests | Submit | Interact | Store

Copyright © Classics Network. Contact Us