Rose deliberately constructs a parallel personal story for the 3rd Juror, whose broken relationship with his 16-year-old son, influences his decision. In the stage directions Rose notes how the father is reeling from the pain of rejection and from being “stabbed in the chest”. This foreshadows his revenge agenda owing to his rigid, patriarchal view of parenting. Throughout the play, there are repetitive references to the “knife”, which will be critical to the fact-finding process, but in this case the stab wounds symbolically refer to the 3rd juror’s raw and personal emotions and his desire to teach the boy a lesson.
At the end, as noted in the stage directions, the 8th juror looks back at the knife cuts the table. Rose seems to suggest that the biases have finally been dissected.
(Prejudice) Rose notes in the stage directions how the Guard constantly locks and unlocks the room. For example, “in the silence the sound is heard of the door being locked”, which becomes a metaphoric representation of the closed minds of the jurors. This reflects the prejudice that dominates their attitude towards the boy who are “born liars” and who should be “slapped.. before they make trouble”. In many ways, this climate of fear and prejudice also reflects the McCarthy-style hysteria that gripped America during the time Rose wrote the play.
(Varied backgrounds) Typically, Rose assigns to each juror a personal and/or professional story to show how their varied life experience, knowledge and background inform their views and values and influence their ability to evaluate the evidence.
As an architect, the 8th juror is calm and methodically investigates the evidence. Rose also characterises him as the spokesperson for justice who focuses on the concept of “reasonable doubt” and analyses the flaws in the “circumstantial evidence”.
Typically, Rose assigns to each juror a personal and/or professional story to show how their life experience informs their views and values as well as influences their ability to evaluate the evidence. As a stockbroker, who is typically used to making decisions under pressure, the 4th juror reacts calmly and sensibly; he insists on following “the logical progression of facts”. As an architect, the 8th juror is calm and considered and methodically investigates the evidence.
Significantly, the 4th juror’s eye-glasses become a key to the fact-finding process. They are also used symbolically to parallel the woman’s eye-witness testimony which is similarly clouded by the glasses. In the stage directions, Rose notes that “removing his eyeglasses”, he too becomes clouded by personal impressions and lacks foresight; it becomes “obvious” to him that the “boy’s entire story was flimsy”.
The woman’s eyewitness testimony revolves around her ability to “see” the boy through the window of the el-train. In this case, her eyeglasses become symbolic of her ability and that of the other jurors, to examine the evidence and “see” and think clearly. In this case, eyeglasses make “deep impressions” or “marks on her nose”. They reflect blurred vision, just as when the 4th juror removes his eyeglasses and offers his flawed judgement on the boy’s “flimsy” defence.
(Irresponsible; of civic duties) The 8th’s frustration at the indifference of the other jurors is evident when, as Rose notes in the stage directions, he “snatches” up the paper and the game of tic tac toe and “drops it in the waste basket”.
The game of the tic-tac toe also becomes a figurative sign of their indifference as is the “doodling”. Likewise, the mindless whistling of the 7th juror and the change of his vote to “not guilty” because he has “had enough” highlights his obvious apathy. Rose suggests this attitude, which is compounded by the heat, is counterproductive to the notion of active citizenship.
Rose deliberately uses the physical setting of the jury room which is hot, sparse and uncomfortable to mirror the rising tension among the 12 jurors. There seems to be a great deal at stake, personally, for these jurors whose opinions are competing for priority.
Rose deliberately uses the setting as a mirror of the emotional tension in the room arising because of the conflict caused by their heated personalities and prejudices. For example, it is the “hottest day on record” and yet there are no fans; consequently, the heat is stifling and many of the jury members are anxious for a quick resolution – especially those, like the 10th who is suffering from the flu. This emotional tension reaches a climax when the 3rd juror grabs the 8th in a state of emotional flux and exclaims, “I’m gonna kill you”.
Furthermore, the fact that the “drab” jury room is opposite the New York skyline, representing the American dream, with its focus on individualism, money and commerce, also shows how personal motives are paramount. (contrasts/ contradictions) Also the fact that the jury system seems to be downgraded. As a result, Rose skilfully shows how prejudice is interfering with the truth, and most cleverly, the setting becomes a reflection of this.
At the beginning of Act II when the verdict is deadlocked, the weather turns and the rain “pours down”. The foreman’s reference to the football game is used as a metaphor for the change in group dynamics as the views of the 8th gain sway and gradually the tension is defused. As the assistant head football coach, the foreman states that the rain changed the nature of the game and reversed the predictable outcome. (Coincidentally, the rain stops when the not-guilty verdict is reached which suggests the right verdict.)
(Group dynamics) Once again, the use of real-time and the unfolding discussion serve to highlight the manner in which many of the bigoted jurors intimidate the others and seek a hasty and unjust resolution.