”Twelve Angry Men” illustrates the dangers of a justice system that relies on twelve individuals reaching a life-or-death decision. ’ Discuss The American justice system is intended to be fair and unbiased. It is founded on the ideal that a defendant is innocent until proven guilty, and ensures the duty of proving a dispute charge rests with the prosecution. However this system has inevitable flaws as every individual’s beliefs, values and morals are affected by their own experiences and factors.
While such factors could potentially be the systems weaknesses, they could also be its biggest strength bringing experience and understanding to the courtrooms. It is this contradiction that Reginald Rose aims to explore through his portrayal of jurors in his play “Twelve Angry Men. ’ The play presents the possibility that some jurors are driven by prejudice, while others self-interest motives can jeopardize the rights of the defendant through aspirations to speed up the case.
However Rose portrays a voice of reason through the ethical juror 8 and the unbigoted juror 11, these jurors help to represent Rose’s view that a fair trial can be held in a jury room full of flawed human characters that symbolize the spectrum of society. It is inevitable that the jurors own personal experiences affect their opinion on the innocence of the defendant. It is these personal experiences, which threaten the defendants right to ‘a fair trial’ at the danger of a juror’s personal bias ‘obscur[ing] the truth.
’ Juror 3 is depicted as the juror with the most prejudice throughout the play, consistent with the vote of ‘guilty’ as he relates the defendant to his own son who he describes as a ‘rotten kid. ’ This illustrates the danger that personal bias has on the justice system, as the defendant is being adjudicated by juror 3 on his age and gender rather than the merits of the case.
Prejudice is also displayed by juror 10 who see’s the accused as ‘trash’ due to his ‘slums’ background, this demonstrates the preconceived views of juror 10 not only don’t allow him to see others points of view but also do not allow for him to even consider the boy as a human with basic rights. Rose’s illustrates through the use of juror 3 and 10’s stage directions and dialogue the harmful effects prejudice can have on the justice system when deciding the verdict of an individual.
Another danger to the justice system is a jurors own self-obsessed motives which can distract them from the task at hand. The apathy from some of the jurors, posts a threat to the justice system and the verdict of the defendant. It is juror 7 Rose uses to show the reader how a lack of social resposinsibility and care for active citizenship can post a threat to life of the defendant. Juror 7 is often ‘looking at his watch’ and believes the trial is a ‘waste of time,’ these acts exemplify the dangers of self-interest motives that have the power to undermine the entire judical system.
Juror 7’s hast to come to a verdict so he can attend the ‘ball game’ and his joking attitude suggest that he does not take his role as a juror seriously, through these actions Rose is demonstrating the threat a juror such as 7 can have on the fairness of a trial and it’s outcome. Another character that appears to have little interest in the discussion of the accused is the ‘mildly’ spoken juror 2, juror 2 speaks ‘nervously’ and ‘helplessly’ and his lack of dialogue depicts a man who is timid and scared with little to add to discussion, however juror 2 is Rose’s representation of the affects of McCarthyism on American society in the 1950s.
At the time of ‘Twelve Angry Men’ American was a nation overcome with fear, paranoia and distrust due to the reign of Joseph McCarthy. This is significant because juror 2 was afraid to speak out in fear of being attacked due to McCarthyism. While it may appear that juror to is disinterested in the case, social and cultural factors are playing a role and preventing juror 2 from adding to the discussion, hence affecting the fairness of the outcome. While Rose demonstrates the dangers of the justice system, he also includes voices of reason that demonstrate the strengths of the jury.
Through the use of certain jurors Rose demonstrates that a just trial can still be held even when surrounded by imperfect human characters. Through the 11th juror rose illustrates the strengths of the jury system. Juror eleven, a man who has lived without democracy is an advocate for the American democratic system. He reminds other jurors that democracy is a ‘wonderful thing’ as it enables ordinary citizens of equal standing to implement justice, as ‘they have nothing to gain or lose by their verdict.
’ Thus, highlighting the strong aspects of the jury system and how it must be appreciated, as it is a basis of the American democracy. Furthermore, the 8th Juror is also used to represent the possible strengths of the jury system as an element of the legal system. This is demonstrated by his confidence and the fact that he does not quail at the idea of ‘stand[ing] alone’ against a potentially unanimous ‘guilty’ verdict, as he eventually encourages other jurors that a young man’s life is worth some discussion. Thus, through the role of the jury, Rose asserts that ordinary people can ensure an effective justice system.
The quest for justice is certainly not an easy one, this Rose illustrates throughout his two-act drama. Rose demonstrates that many dangers can affect the outcome and fairness’s of the sentence of a defendant with a justice system that relies on 12 individuals to reach a unanimous verdict. Wheather it be a jurors personal prejudice, apathy or social and cultural values, Rose depicts there are threats to the justice system. Ultimately however, Rose offers a glimmer of hope. Showing that a voice of reason and a willingness to stand alone, can allow for a fair trial and the prevail of the truth.
Courtney from Study Moose
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