PREJUDICE: 12 men with a variety of experiences; often with prejudiced or bigoted attitudes that interfere with their legal judgements and a fair discussion;
Prejudice clouds their response to the evidence; they quickly jump to conclusions based on their prior prejudices
Many assumptions are made by the eyewitnesses and the those who believe the boy is guilty are more likely to accept the assumptions…
Defence of the system: Because of the discussion and the focus on reasonable doubt, they do overcome their prejudice – they do set aside their bigoted views.
Many of the jurors lack the legal competence to carefully examine the evidence. Some are flippant and casual; many play tic tac toe. Many do not fulfil their legal duties.
The jurors are prejudiced towards the boy and Rose shows that their bigoted attitudes threaten to derail (disturb/stop) the legal process.
Socio-economic factors and social stereotyping:
- Many of the jury members discriminate against the boy because of his poor family background. They arrive at hasty conclusions and are quick to believe unreliable evidence.
- They believe that he is automatically capable of murder because he lives on the “wrong side of the tracks”. He lacks supervision from his father who is an alcoholic, a gambler and an ex-prisoner. For this reason, they fail to question or investigate the evidence thoroughly.
- Many believe that the young boy looks and acts like a “dangerous killer” because the “slums are a breeding ground for criminals”
- The 6th states that he is obviously guilty “from the word go”. Because of his poor background, “can’t believe a word they say… .they’re born liars” 8/13).
- The 3rd juror resents the young boy because he reminds him of his own son.
- The 3rd and the 4th jurors believe that the young kids are a “potential menace to society” and that they should be “slapped” around
- The 3rd juror believes that “we would be better off if we “took these tough kids and slapped ‘em down before they make trouble. Save us a lot of time and money.” (3/7)
- The 10th J. criticizes the children who “run wild up there” .
Racist mindset: racial profiling
- The 10th juror states that the boy is “violent! .. that’s the way they are, by nature”
- The 7th juror is antagonistic towards the 11th juror. He states that he wants to “knock (his) goddam middle European head off”
- HOW: locked and unlocked room – symbol of a mind that is restricted (locked) because of bigoted views. “Not guilty” guard “unlocks the door”
How: depersonalises the jury members. (to show that the personal opinions and backgrounds detrimentally intervene)
- Also, the personalities of those who present the evidence play a large role. The eye-witnesses have their personal reasons why they manipulate/distort (change) the facts to suit their own agendas. For example, the old man wants to be recognised and lives a lonely life. It becomes clear that he could not have quickly hurried to the door to see the young boy disappearing from his flat.
- While he may have heard the boy say “I’m gonna kill you”, it was impossible for him to see the boy leave the apartment.
He “drags one leg when he walks” and had a stroke last year so he cannot possibly get from the bed to the front door in 15 seconds. This proves that he simply “assumed it was the boy” (36)..
Likewise, the woman wants to appear presentable in the jury stand, and so removes her glasses. It also becomes evident that she could not have put on eyeglasses in time to see the boy. (She could not have seen the boy up to 60 feet away.)
- Jurors: this shows that they are being selective with the type of “facts” they choose to believe
They are also hastily (quickly) forming conclusions based on assumptions (beliefs).
- Also the defence lawyer does not do a decent job and the prosecution team is well spoken (articulate). The jurors are more likely to believe the prosecution team.
Personal experience, background of jury members
- The personal experiences of many of the jury members influence their attitude to the boy and to the trial. For example, the 3rd juror has an estranged relationship with his son and he has not seen him for 2 years (p. 12)… he is very angry and disturbed that his son left home in very difficult circumstances. It is not surprising that his tough approach to law and order stems from his own problematic relationship with his son.
- The 3rd juror is very aggressive and harsh and seeks to threaten the other jurors.
- Ironically, Rose depersonalises the jury members (with numbers) to reinforce the fact that their personal interests should not intervene.
Rose also suggests that the room and personal interests of the jury members make it difficult for them to sit for a long period of time. It is the “hottest day on record”, some of them are sick; most of them are uncomfortable in the room which lacks a decent fan. They want a quick verdict. In addition, Juror No. 7 has tickets to watch the baseball match and is anxious for a conclusion.
Group dynamics (stage directions)
The title, “12 angry men”, reflects Rose’s concern that the clashing personalities of the 12 jurors, in a group setting, have a strong influence on the judicial process. Indeed, group dynamics, with a range of volatile and sensitive personalities do have an impact on the discussion. The 3rd juror is the most aggressive and confrontational, but as he reveals, he is also personally offended by his son’s rejection. In the stage directions, Rose states that when he reveals his personal problems he “breaks off. He has said more than he intended” and is “embarrassed” and certainly his shame affects his views and possibly causes his intimidatory stance. Contrastingly, the 8th juror is more patient, and is able to withstand scorn. He can be provocative to reinforce the flaws in the evidence. However, he earns respect through his considerate and sensitive outlook, but also through his dramatic and colourful personality when he re-enacts some of the evidence so that others can literally visualise it. (the old man’s testimonies – the steps, the knife)
(How: takes place in “real-time’ to focus the audience’s attention on the interaction/ title)
- How: rain/ football coach/foreman – reverses predictable outcome – weather and external factors can break the impasse and impact upon group dynamics. (reflects …. The catalyst of change… )
Assumptions: The prosecution team is articulate and as a result the jurors automatically place their faith and trust in what seems to be “logical” and sound evidence. As for the prosecutor, he “hammered home his points”. As the X juror states, “it takes a good brain to do that. I was very impressed.” As the 8th juror proves, they are more interested in the manner in which he conducts the case, rather than the facts.
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