Important Quotes from 12 Angry Men

Instructor: Susan Nagelsen

Susan has directed the writing program in undergraduate colleges, taught in the writing and English departments, and criminal justice departments.

Reginald Rose takes us on a journey through the jury phase of a death penalty case in ''12 Angry Men''. We watch as twelve jurors struggle to determine guilt or innocence. Their struggle shows us the difficulty in deciding someone's fate.

A Little Background

Whether you are enjoying this as a play or movie, 12 Angry Men by Reginald Rose does not disappoint. The role of a jury in a death penalty case is profound. The jurors in this case struggle with the defendant's innocence or guilt. They do what is natural in cases like these: they argue, they debate, they get angry, but ultimately they are able to reach a decision that is unanimous.

In the Beginning

When the story opens, the issue is obvious. When the first vote is taken, the count is eleven to one in favor of guilty. We are off and running toward what will become a heated session of push and pull. Juror Eight is the holdout.

'There were eleven votes for 'guilty.' It's not easy for me to raise my hand and send a boy off to die without talking about it first.'

As the lone holdout, Eight has a long road ahead of him. He explains that the kid has had it tough, but in spite of that he has done pretty well for the first part of his life. Eight believes the kid deserves to have them at least talk about the case before rushing to a decision.

'Look, this boy's been kicked around all his life. You know -- living in a slum, his mother dead since he was nine. He spent a year and a half in an orphanage while his father served a jail term for forgery. That's not a very good head start.'

The Personalities Emerge

In short order we begin to see who's who and what's what with the jurors, we must look at their psychological reactions to the trial. Juror Three has a difficult relationship with his son. They are estranged, and it becomes clear that the father is terribly ashamed of him.

'When he was nine he ran away from a fight. I saw him. I was so ashamed I almost threw up.'

The trouble with the boy just got worse. He tells the other members that he and his son had a fight, and he hasn't seen him sense. His relationship with his son plays a role in his decisions.

Juror Eight is the hero of the play. He is filled with courage and compassion. He is calm, and he is the only one who sticks to his original vote. He is a man with strong convictions and the ability to defend them. After the vote has been taken, he tells the rest,

'I don't want to change your mind. I just want to talk for a while.'

Juror Ten makes his bigoted views known immediately. He makes judgements about people based on race, class, or religion. He is confrontational and hostile at times. He and juror number three have tempers that are on a short fuse. He is vocal about his views from the beginning of their deliberations.

'I don't mind telling you this, mister. We don't owe him a thing. He got a fair trial, didn't he?'

In his mind it is a done deal. The trial is all he deserved. He believes the defendant is guilty until proven innocent.

The stage is set for a lively discussion with these characters involved. We are ringside as they hammer out what they heard and how they think, and try to come to a decision that will determine the defendant's fate.

Tempers Flare

As the discussion continues, tempers flare and people show their inner feelings, giving us a window into what makes them tick, psychologically. Juror Three and Juror Eight have a run-in. Juror Eight says in a heated voice,

'Ever since you walked into this room, you've been acting like a self-appointed public avenger! You want to see this boy die because you personally want it, not because of the facts! You're a sadist!'

To which Three replies,

'I'll kill him! I'll kill him!'

Eight responds,

'You don't really mean you'll kill me, do you?'

Juror Two adds two cents to the conversation,

'It's hard to put into words. I just think he's guilty. I thought it was obvious from the word, 'Go'.

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