Martha Hale, wife of the man who discovered Mr. Peters, the wife of the local sheriff, are key characters to this story. Running parallel to each other throughout the story, they are central to the story line, and they alone allow the story to develop. Although the theme of the story is about Minnie Wright and not intended to be about the two women, their influence in the story ultimately results in the fate of Minnie Wright.
The women's influence to the story is almost accidental. Neither one of them meant to find evidence against Minnie, they were just there to pack up a few things for her and be done with it. Their curiosity and wonder arose when they find certain things in the Wright's home that seems peculiar and out of place for the Minnie Foster they had known twenty years prior to her marriage to Mr. Wright. Martha Hale seems meticulous in keeping her household, "She hated to see things half done- (18), so seeing the disarray that the Wright's house was the beginning to understanding that Minnie was unhappy. Because of these and other details the women find in the Wright's home (i.e. the unfinished quilt with the horribly sewn square, the broken birdcage) they take on both "good and evil" if you will to the story line. Mrs. Peters is married to the law and it is her obligation to report her findings in the home to her husband as he's the sheriff. Mrs. Hale not only has an obligation to the law as a citizen, but it's known that she intends to hide everything from her husband to avoid Minnie's secret from being discovered. They have become Minnie's jury, and because of this they play both roles of antagonist and protagonist. Pro with the thoughts of Minnie in mind, understanding her pain and suffering she has gone through in her marriage, and con against the men for keeping such vital information to the investigation to themselves.
In the beginning one would believe that the story was to revolve around the men.