Juror 11 in 12 Angry Men: Character Analysis

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  • 0:03 Fitting In
  • 0:34 The Other
  • 2:46 The Other Observes
  • 4:16 Finding His Voice
  • 5:47 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: J.R. Hudspeth

Jackie has taught college English and Critical Thinking and has a Master's degree in English Rhetoric and Composition

'12 Angry Men' by Reginald Rose is a play about twelve men on a jury deciding the fate of a young man accused of murder. Complete this lesson for a short character analysis of Juror 11 and the role that he plays in the story.

Fitting In

Those of us who have been new to a town, school, or workplace know that most of the time, life is easier when you fit in. When you look and sound the same, it becomes easier to fit in and get along with others.

However, there are times when the group thinks, says, or does something that we don't agree with. What would you do then? That is the question that Juror 11 has to answer for himself in 12 Angry Men. He is different from the rest of the jurors; he is the Other.

The Other

The Other is a term, often used in literature, for a character who is different from the mainstream; s/he does not fit in with the other characters. An Other might stand out because of a characteristic such as race, religion, nationality, gender, or sex. Because the Other is different, they are often ignored or mistrusted by the group and might be bullied or discriminated against. Juror 11 is an Other. He is a refugee from Europe who immigrated to the United States. He speaks with an accent, though the country he comes from is not defined.

The case in Twelve Angry Men matters a great deal to Juror 11. The ideal jury would fairly share and debate their opinions with each other. However, because Juror 11 is clearly different from the rest of the U.S.-born Americans in the group, his views will not be taken as seriously as those of the other jurors. In fact, Juror 11 faces outright hostility from other jurors because he is different from them.

When Juror 11 tries to share his experience of the justice system of his old country to give a contrasting viewpoint to the other jurors, he is shut down by Juror 7, who asks if he is going to give the history of his whole country. Later, when Juror 11 politely asks whether Juror 7 understands the term ''reasonable doubt'' as the men plan to discuss the guilt or innocence of the defendant, Juror 7 pounces on him: ''What do you mean I don't understand it? Who do you think you are to talk to me like that? (To all) How do you like this guy? He comes over here running for his life, and before he can even take a big breath he's telling us how to run the show. The arrogance of him!''

Juror 7's xenophobia, or dislike of people from other nations or cultures, comes through here. He believes that he knows more about the justice process than Juror 11, because Juror 11, being from another country, cannot possibly be as informed about America as an American. Just as a bully on a schoolyard would, Juror 7 tries to ostracize Juror 11. He asks the rest of the jurors to agree with his viewpoint that Juror 11 is an unwelcome and un-American interloper who should be grateful to the United States simply for letting him live there.

The Other Observes

Ironically, Juror 11 may well be the most ''American'' of all of the jurors. Juror 11 has a respect for the judicial system that is informed by his experience in his old country. He immigrated to America because he believes very deeply in the integrity of the system, even beyond the jurors born in the United States. When Jurors 3 and 7 demand that the juror who changed his vote during a secret ballot be revealed, Juror 11 stands up for the anonymous juror and for the integrity of the secret ballot: ''Please. I would like to say something here. I have always thought that a man was entitled to have unpopular opinions in this country. This is the reason I came here. I wanted to have the right to disagree.''

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