Alec Masella’s “Stitches: The Relationship Between Women and Fabrication in Short Legal Fiction” is a fascinating look into the role women play in legal fiction. Feminism, female community, and the role of women in the justice system are all explored within his research. Masella delves into the definition of fabrication, and how both the literal and figurative definitions of fabrication are used as a plot trope when female characters are present in legal fiction. Masella argues and demonstrates that fabrication is used for both the empowerment and trivialization of women, offering an interesting insight into the role of women in legal fiction. Fabrication is utilized in Masella’s research to mean both the making and wearing of articles of clothing, as well as fabrication in the sense of creating stories to fool the justice system. While fabrication connects and empowers women in legal fiction, Masella explores the complexities it creates in short legal fiction as well. The dichotomy of the power that women hold in the justice system and fabrication’s role in demonizing women as schemers and liars creates new perspective on how women are treated by and contribute to the legal system.
A range of short legal fiction is analyzed in Masella’s research, including short stories by Agatha Christie, Somerset Maugham, and Achy Obejas. A special focus is placed on Susan Glaspell’s “A Jury of Her Peers” in order to fully explore the role of fabrication and its connection to women in legal fiction. Glaspell’s powerful story is about three women in rural Iowa connecting to one another and solving a crime through fabrication. Following the murder of John Wright, his wife, Minnie Wright, becomes the prime suspect due to her peculiar behavior when the Wright’s neighbor, Lewis Hale, comes by and finds John’s body. The country sheriff, Mr. Peters; the county prosecutor, George Henderson; Lewis Hale; Hale’s wife, Margaret; and the sheriff’s wife, Mrs. Peters go to the Wrights’ house to try to find evidence against Minnie Wright. As the story progresses, Margaret Hale and Mrs. Peters, discover that Minnie Wright was abused by her husband and killed him out of self-defense. By noticing strewn objects around the house, the strange state of a canary cage, a dead bird, and the unclean state of the kitchen, Margaret Hale and Mrs. Peters begin to solve the crime together. After finding a quilt Mrs. Wright was making, the women notice the quilt has uneven stitching and is unfinished, suggesting Mrs. Wright’s nervousness the night her husband was murdered. Throughout the story, the three women become connected through the evidence and their similar state of being seen as trivial and unimportant by their husbands. After discovering other clues, Margaret Hale and Mrs. Peters hide a piece of evidence that would convict Minnie in order to help her case. Margaret Hale and Mrs. Peters do their own fabricating by lying to their husbands and refusing to show them the incriminating evidence. The story is wonderfully analyzed as it relates to fabrication, both in Minnie Wright’s quilt and the construction of a story by Margaret Hale and Mrs. Peters in order to spare Minnie Wright.
“Stitches: The Relationship Between Women and Fabrication in Short Legal Fiction” explores the theme of fabrication in “A Jury of Her Peers” within the context of other stories featuring women playing roles in the justice system. The wide selection of stories, all from different time periods and about women from diverse backgrounds, demonstrates how linked women and fabrication have become, and have been throughout literary history, specifically in legal fiction.
Masella decided to write his research about women and fabrication in short legal fiction in a course titled Literature and the Law. As he read short stories for the course, he noticed that most female characters in the stories knitted and sewed throughout the plot, specifically after important plot-twists. Once “A Jury of Her Peers” was assigned, he noticed what a large role fabrication plays in the story, thus conforming his idea that fabrication is a recurring theme in short legal fiction with female characters. Masella’s exploration of the way legal fiction depicts women, specifically with both literal and gurative fabrication, insinuates that fiction can influence people’s perspectives on how women actually are involved in crime in reality. Masella says that Mrs. Wright’s unfinished quilt “holds a certain literary power to it. It also speaks to the generally unnoticed influence women have in dire legal decisions.” In drawing attention to the way women are overlooked by the legal system in short legal fiction, and how fabrication binds them together in these stories, Masella highlights the importance of women in the justice system both in fiction and reality.
How to Cite:
Masella, A. and Beisser, R., 2017. Stitches: The Relationship Between Women and Fabrication in Short Legal Fiction. Philologia, 9. DOI: http://doi.org/10.21061/ph.v9i0.209