Twelve Angry Men, written by Reginald Rose in 1957, portrays the intense discussion between 12 jurors in the American jury about a 16 year old boy, who is accused of killing his own father, and charged with “premeditated homicide”, the most serious charge in court. It explores the flaws of human nature, and the impacts of misinterpretations of the case can have on the defendant. However, they play also illustrates when jurors reassess the case and themselves, they will finally follow the judge’s words, which is to “separate the facts from the fancy.
” Throughout the play, all jurors reconsiders about the case and themselves, nonetheless not all succeeds. The 4th Juror is the only character which successfully renewed his knowledge about the case and himself. Characters such as the 6th juror develops new understanding of the case but is still a few steps from truly knowing himself. While jurors such as the 10th juror, is forced to alter his vote despite rejecting all of other juror’s arguments. The 4th Juror gains new understandings of the case when the women’s testimony that “she saw” the boy commit the murder is questioned.
The 9th juror observantly identified the “strange marks” on the women’s face and confirmed with the 4th juror that it is eyeglasses’ marks and it would be unreasonable for someone to wear glasses to bed as well as to see the murder “sixty feet away in the dark”. The 4th juror claims he “never thought of that”, which symbolizes his acceptance of the flaw in his logic which he is extremely proud of as a broker. His new self-understanding is illustrated by his last line in the play, “let him live”.
Through most of the play he presents himself as an extremely logical person, and most of the evidences he present comes from an objective view, however, the quote “Let him live” clearly comes from a subjective view. It turns out that the most facts-based person says the most merciful line in the whole play. The 6th Juror is another character who attempts to develop a deeper knowledge of the case and himself. The 6th Juror is a house painter, which in the historical context of the play, is not a respected job because it is post-depression and post-World War 2 therefore people’s jobs and income is immensely judged on.
At the start of the play, juror 6 is afraid of expressing his opinions, “I don’t know. I started to be convinced, uh, you know”. His way of talking reveals that he is extremely unconfident about his decision. However, as the play progressed the 6th juror starts of play an important role, despite grabbing the 3rd juror when he is about to threaten juror 8, he also says one of the most important quote in the play, he suggests that “suppose” juror 8 succeeds in persuading all of the jurors, what if “the kid really did knife his father.
” This is a very rational and real doubt presented by the 6th juror, the jurors will never know whether the boy really committed the murder or not, the 8th juror’s argument and doubts may be strong and confident however we cannot ignore the reality that there is a chance that the defendant actually did murder his father, which if the boy is acquitted then justice would not have been served. This shows that the 6th juror now has a clear and deep understanding of the case however he has not reached a new understanding of himself since he has limited impact in Act 2.
Contrasting from other jurors, the 10th juror is forced to change his vote and hence does not fully recognize the flaws in his arguments and himself. At the start, he declares that people like the defendant are “potential menaces to society” and he doesn’t “want any part of them”. The ingrained prejudice in the 10th juror is presumably developed through his conservative upbringing as he claims he has “lived among them” for his entire life.
In his outbreak near the end of the play, his prejudice and bigotry remains even when facts and testimonies are proven doubtable, the main reason is that his “guilty” vote purely relies on his stereotypes on the defendant rather than evidences. His monologue depicts the boy and “his type” as “wild animals” and will cause “danger” to the society, he changed his vote in the end not because he is convinced but because he gave up explaining his prejudiced argument to others as well as feeling ashamed for attacking most jurors however, he still firmly believes that the boy is guilty.
Through juror 10, Reginald Rose shows the audience an extreme sample of a prejudiced American in pre-civil rights era, when the play was written. Although this is not directly mentioned, juror 10’s prejudice towards “this type” of people is similar to white American’s prejudice towards African Americans. Rose juxtaposes these two types of prejudice which gives an explanation to why juror 10 holds his original opinion even with many “reasonable doubts” as racial discrimination even remains in modern society.