The Courage to Stand Alone as Portrayed in Reginald Rose’s “12 Angry Men”
How it works
In 1960, Reginald Rose penned his masterpiece, 12 Angry Men. This play introduces us to twelve men of various statures. All of these men are part of the jury who will decide the fate of a young man, who has been accused of murdering his father. At first glance of the testimonies of the witnesses in the trial, the reader, or audience, will probably agree with the notion of the juvenile’s guilt. If it were not for one character in this play, juror No.
8, the deliberations of this trial would have been non-existent. At the end of this story, another juror, No. 3, states his nearly impenetrable opinion, causing a hung jury. After reading or watching this play, the audience acquires insight into the fact that despite how unfavorable a person’s opinion may be, it is the courage to hold one’s ground, sometimes with no other support but from himself, that must be recognized as vital.
The story starts off in the courtroom with the jury making their way to the deliberation room to discuss and vote on the case. A vote is cast to see where they stand with one another on their opinions. The men have various reasons for voting the way they do. Take, for instance, juror No. 7 who says, “This better be fast, I’ve got tickets to The Seven Year Itch tonight,” or No. 2, who is a meek, hesitant man who finds it difficult to maintain any opinions of his own. He is easily swayed and usually adopts the opinion of the last person to whom he has spoken, and No. 3, whose son won’t talk to him anymore because of his father’s bitterness against young people. Some of the other men on the jury believe that you can’t trust people from the slums, and since the boy is from the slums, they don’t believe his testimony. It is only juror No. 8 who entered the jury room with a non-biased attitude and left his personal baggage at the door. He believes that maybe we owe him a few words, but the others believe that they don’t owe him a thing. The evidence against the accused convinces all the jurors of the boy’s guilt, except for Juror No. 8.
The evidence that has convinced the rest of the jurors is analyzed by juror No. 8, which causes the others to think twice about their verdict. The reason why juror No. 8 went into such detail about all of the evidence is because he had a peculiar feeling about this trial. He felt that the defense never really conducted a thorough cross-examination. The defense lawyer was appointed by the court to defend the boy and hardly seemed interested. Too many questions were left unasked. There were three pieces of evidence that the prosecution presented, each of which could have probably convinced a jury of the boy’s guilt. These were the switchblade, and the two witnesses: the old man, the neighbor downstairs, and the woman, the neighbor from the street. All of these key pieces of evidence were scrutinized in the jury room. No one, but juror No. 8, saw the flaws with each. For example, the allegedly rare switchblade, which we find out isn’t so rare, that the boy had bought from a local corner store.
The storekeeper identified it and said it was the only one of its kind he had in stock. This testimony had convinced eleven of the jurors until Juror No. 8 swiftly flicked open the base of a switch knife and placed it on the table next to the first one (knife). They were exactly alike. After this incident, another juror sided with him. Next, the old man and the woman from across the street’s testimonies were put to the test. As Juror No. 3 said, the old man heard the killer yell, “I’m gonna kill you.” A second later, he heard the father’s body falling, and he saw the boy running out of the house fifteen seconds after that. With the Jury Room’s furniture, Juror No. 8 reenacted the scene that would have had to take place if the old man were to be able to see all he said he did. Juror No. 8 proved that the old man wouldn’t have been able to move as quickly as he said he did; thus, he wasn’t telling the whole truth.
Then it was the turn for the woman across the street. Her testimony proved to be doubtful as well. She said that she was unable to fall asleep that night and she had looked out the window from her bed and saw the whole incident take place. This testimony seemed unshakable until Juror No. 8 said, “You know the woman who verified that she saw the killing wears glasses. Would this woman wear eyeglasses to bed?” This statement shed light on the fact that she testified that in the midst of her tossing and turning she rolled over and looked casually out the window. The murder was taking place as she looked out, and the lights went out a split second later. She couldn’t have had time to put on her glasses. “I would say she only saw a blur,” No. 8 said. These facts changed the verdicts of the majority of the jurors to ‘Not Guilty.’ Near the end of these deliberations, it is only the stubborn and bitter Juror No. 3 who stands alone. He, steeped in enmity, changes his mind to make the verdict unanimous: Not Guilty.
This play shows its audience that although some of us have different and sometimes adverse views, respect for others’ various opinions must be prominent. We can try to change the views of others by informing them and not by domineering over them with our opinions. The underlying theme of this play was once said by Juror No. 9, “It takes a great deal of courage to stand alone.”