Literary Analysis 12 Angry Men Essay
Literary Analysis 12 Angry Men
Juror #7- The Christ Figure
In the 1957 classic film, ’12 Angry Men’, the writer, Reginald Rose, portrays the antagonist, Juror #7, as a Christ figure. The writer’s use of a few conspicuous similarities made making the initial connection simple. However, the writer’s brilliant use of inconspicuous similarities made researching this paper very enjoyable. It amazes me that a writer takes the time to tuck little morsels of meaning just under the surface of his work. Let’s take a deeper look at ’12 Angry Men’. The film tells the story of a jury of twelve men deliberating over the fate of a teenaged boy accused of stabbing his father to death. When the jury retires to its chamber, the jury foreman assigns each juror a number according to where they were seated around the table.
The antagonist was sitting in the seventh chair; therefore, he became Juror # 7. This is the first Christ figure connection I made. The number seven is the most often referred to number in the Bible with the exception of the number one. The number seven is used over 700 times in the Bible. In the Book of Revelations, it is used 54 times. In Hebrew it is considered the perfect number and represents completion. It is used so many times in the Bible to represent completion or perfection, that to reference them all for this paper would take up its entirety. In ’12 Angry Men’, the antagonist is the only juror to place a not guilty vote when the jury took its first vote. The antagonist systematically breaks down the reasoning behind every other juror’s guilty vote. One by one, he exposes the underlying fears and prejudices of each jury member. In doing so, he creates reasonable doubt. In essence, he became the boy’s savior. In the Book of John, Chapter 8, the story is told of an adulteress who is caught in the very act of adultery. In accordance with the law, the woman was to be stoned to death. When asked his opinion of what the woman’s fate should be, Christ says, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.”
Then those who heard it, being driven by their consciences, left without casting a stone at the woman. In the same way, the antagonist brings to light in each juror their own sinful nature and human weaknesses. The antagonist’s outward appearance and demeanor also mirrors the way that Christ has been depicted throughout the history of Christianity. In contrast to the other jurors, the antagonist wears white. He is outwardly calm. He is patient and never loses his temper. The setting of the film is a stuffy jury room with no air conditioning, yet the antagonist maintains an air of lightness and serenity. In contrast, the other jurors sweat, complain of the heat and display flaring tempers. One of the more subtle connections I made was that the antagonist was an architect by trade. I knew from Bible study that Jesus was a carpenter. It was not until I was advised to check the etymology of the word architect that this connection became concrete. The Online Etymology Dictionary says the following:
1550’s from Middle French architecte, from Latin architectus, from Greek arkhitekton “master builder, director of works”, from arkhi- “chief” + tekton “builder, carpenter”
It was in the end of the very last scene that our antagonist was given a name. He introduces himself by the name of “Davis” to another juror as they are leaving the courthouse. Ironically, my maiden name is “Davis”. I suspected that the writer has a reason for doing this so I looked for the meaning of the surname Davis. “Davis” is Welsh in origin. It is a patronymic name that means, “Son of David”. In Hebrew, the name David means “beloved”. Jesus is referred to as the son of David several times in the Bible. The following are a few scriptures from the Bible where Jesus is referred to as the son of David. “As Jesus went on from there, two blind men followed him, crying out, “Have mercy on us, Son of David!” (Matthew 9:27) “And a Canaanite woman from that region came out and began to cry out, saying, “Have mercy on me Lord, Son of David; my daughter is cruelly demon-possessed.” (Matthew 15:22) “The crowds going ahead of him, and those who followed, were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David; blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest!” (Matthew 21:9) The writer’s depiction of Juror #7 as a Christ figure is clear if you look at the many subtleties of the script. If I were to delve deeper, I am sure there are many more to be discovered. Doing this assignment has been an enlightening experience for me. I have developed the inability to take a written work of art at its face value alone. I will forever be turning over the stones of every story, looking for the hidden
jewels of meaning.