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12 Angry Men Summary

Updated on April 16, 2013

Questions and answers to 12 Angry Men

This short guide is meant for student use.

The following page consists of questions and answers about "12 angry men". These basic questions cover, main themes, juror summaries, and facts. Hopefully the answers will help the student understand the play and it's ideas.

1. What is a jury?

A jury is a group of citizens which hears the testimony in legal disputes and

determines what it believes is the truth. Jury members are chosen randomly from the public and are obligated by law to serve.

2. brief descriptions of every juror

Foreman:

Serious, fair.

Juror 2:

Quiet, nervous, easily persuaded, hard to maintain an independent opinion.

Juror 3:

Works in messenger service, heavy, has a child, aggressive, quick to lose temper, bully, and the last one to change his vote to not guilty (gives into pressure).

Juror 4:

Factual, stockbroker, rational, good memory, presents himself well.

Juror 5:

Works in hospital, from slums, nervous about expressing his opinions, frightened, naïve, third to vote not guilty.

Juror 6:

Brother is a lawyer, looking for motive, works as a house painter, honest, dull-witted, and a listener.

Juror 7:

Into baseball, salesman, wants to get out of the jury as fast as possible, makes almost no contributions to the debate, wants to call it a "hung jury", finally changes vote so he can get out quickly.

Juror 8:

Father of two children, works as an architect, first one to vote not guilty, calm, peaceful, thoughtful, believes in justice, leader.

Juror 9:

Elderly gentleman, second to vote not guilty, observant, gentle.

Juror 10:

Loud, obnoxious, angry, racist, bitter, quick to pick a fight.

Juror 11:

German accent, watchmaker, refugee from Europe, takes the job seriously.

Juror 12:

Works in an ad agency, impatient, proud, and clever.

3. What evidence is presented against the boy?

Much convincing evidence is presented against the boy in the trial. Before the murder, the defendant bought the same kind of knife used in the murder. As an alibi the defendant says he was at the movies when the slaying took place and then couldn't remember the names of the movies. A 45 year old woman declares the she has seen the boy stabbing his father through the window of the city's commuter train. An old man (living downstairs) states that he heard the boy yell, "I'll kill you!" followed by a thump on the floor, after which he saw the defendant flee the scene.

4. How many votes do the jurors take? What causes them to change their mind?

Throughout the play the jurors vote four times.

The first vote takes place in the very beginning to see where everyone stands. The result of the first vote is: 11 vote "guilty" and one votes "not guilty"-juror 8. The second vote is a secret one in which juror 8 does not participate. The result is 10 vote "guilty" and one votes "not guilty"-in the second act we find out juror 11 was the one who changed his mind. In the third act the jurors take another vote. This time the result is six to six. Jurors Two, Six, and Eleven have switched their votes. The last vote they take is whether or not to declare themselves a hung jury-the result is six-six. Then juror 4 changes his mind and the result is seven-five against a hung jury.

As the jurors begin to talk and sort through the evidence, more and more jurors change their vote to "not guilty" hence deciding there is reasonable doubt. The talking is initiated by juror eight who slowly manages to convince the others. However almost every juror contributes to the debate, and some question the evidence. Therefore not only juror eight contributes to the opinion changing but everyone. However, on the other hand, some of the jurors do not only change their minds due to evidence questioning and reasonable doubt. Some jurors change their mind due to peer pressure and self interest. For example: Juror Three changes his mind at the end out of peer pressure and juror Seven changes his mind out of self interest-to get out of there to a baseball game.

5. Why do the jurors initially believe the boy is guilty?

The jurors initially believe the boy is guilty due to the persuasive evidence presented in the trial (including witnesses) and the boy's reputation and background. Some of the jurors are racist and believe that all slum-dogs are cruel and capable of murder. In addition the prosecuting attorney is said to have done an "expert job" while the defending attorney was weak and didn't present much of an argument.

6. How do individual prejudices affect the group?

Individual prejudices affected the group and decisions about voting. Several jurors including Juror Ten and Juror Three have racist opinions about people from the slums. As I stated earlier, they believe that slum-dogs are cruel, dirty, and capable of murder. In their opinion there is no doubt that the boy has committed the accused crime. These opinions convince these jurors to vote an unequivocal "guilty". Furthermore they present throughout the play several racist sayings and speeches. The rest of the group later on stands up against them in disgust.

7. Which jurors uphold justice throughout the play?

Jurors Eight and Eleven uphold justice throughout the play. They both believe strongly in the concept of justice and are determined to talk the trial out before sending the boy to his death. Both of the jurors take their job seriously unlike some of the other jurors. Both of these jurors want to hear everyone out in order to make the right decision. These jurors embody the meaning of an active citizenship. Part of being a citizen is having rights and responsibilities. Jury duty is one of the main responsibilities. These two jurors do not try to get out of this duty or just show up and vote "guilty". They are not passive; they share their opinions and fight to obtain justice.

8. What are the main themes in the play?

1. The power of emotion vs. rationality:

Every juror must battle between emotion and rationality in making his decision. Some jurors are able to let their rational side lead them. For example Juror Four who is solely convinced by evidence. In Act One he says: "The knife, and the way it was brought is pretty strong evidence. Don't you thing so?" On the other hand other jurors are led by emotion. For example juror Three, described as "very excited" who has many emotional outburst and arguments, some of them violent and threatening. At the end of the play amidst juror Three's emotional outburst he states in rage:" You lousy bunch of bleeding hearts. You're not going to intimidate me." Throughout the play we see emotion and rationality switch between dominant roles and passive roles. It is a constant battle of emotion and logic in the jury room.

2. Stereotyping:

Race prejudice is observed in the jury room. Juror Ten is racist against all people coming from the slums. In act one he states:"You can't believe a word they say." He is referring to these people as a whole and not as individuals with personal characteristics and personalities. In act three juror three announces in rage: "The goddam rotten kid. I know him. What they're like. What they do to you." The play is positive towards the end and shows how the jury room overcomes the racism and shuns the two racist jurors.

3. Democracy:

Juror eleven strongly believes in democracy, as demonstrated when he says: "We have a responsibility. This is a remarkable thing about democracy. We have nothing to gain or lose by our verdict. This is one of the reasons why we are strong." "Twelve Angry Men" shows us the strengths and weaknesses of democracy. Each juror can make a difference and affect the final outcome. We also see the different ways people feel about their power to affect. While juror Seven is not interested in the debate and wants to leave, juror Eleven takes his job seriously.

9. Define: Justice, Democracy and social responsibility.

How do the 3 concepts take a main role in the play?

Justice is fairness. The guilty are punished and the innocent are free. The concept is based on a system of rules and laws enforced equally among people.

The meaning of democracy is a government where people elect their leader and the leaders represent the people's will.

Social responsibility is the responsibility of the individual to ensure the well being of his or her fellow citizens.

These three concepts take on a main role in the play. In fact the entire idea of the play is based on them. The jurors are selected from the public and as their social responsibility the must serve on jury duty. The jurors must determine justice in the court room by finding the defendant guilty or of "reasonable doubt". The jurors must act in a democratic way in order to reach their verdict. These three concepts shape the way we live today. We live in a democratic society based on justice and social responsibility. Without these values, our lives would be a chaotic mess.

10. How do the characters develop and change throughout the play?

What causes them to change as people?

Most of the characters change by the end of the play. For some of the characters the changes are small and for others they are more significant. One of the jurors who changes is juror Five. In the beginning of the play he refuses to speak when they go around the table. However later on he opens up and even speaks about his slum background. Juror Five goes from a meek man to a speaker and even contributes to the debate when he explains about knife stabbing. Juror Eight changes as well. We have no way to know whether he has always been a leader of justice. In my opinion he is an ordinary man who felt his duty to press the talks about the trial. He begins the play by just wanting to "talk" but soon finds himself leading the others to a fiery debate. Juror Nine starts off the play by being timid and quiet. However, soon enough he becomes a key participant. He contributes to the debates and is the second one to vote "not guilty".

Many aspects contribute to changing the jurors as people. For one, the rest of the jurors play a role. The jurors' distinct and even exaggerated and over the top personalities make each individual realize what he or she believes in. These personalities shed light on each person's beliefs. Another aspect which plays a role in the jurors' transitions is the evidence. As more and more evidence is laid out on the table, the jurors learn to be flexible and realize that they could be wrong. The final aspect that contributes to changing the jurors is the jury duty itself. Several of the jurors find this duty extremely important and their seriousness and commitment changes them in different ways.

11. How does the play manage to be dramatic and suspenseful despite it's "one room" location?

Although the play takes place in one room, it still manages to be dramatic and suspenseful. The main way it manages to be these things is due to the twelve jurors and their twelve distinct personalities. Each juror is different and unique personality wise. Some jurors are loud and exciting while some are timid and others are angry and obnoxious. The large range of personalities keeps the play interesting and surprising. In addition to their personalities, the ways the jurors interact with others keeps the play dramatic. Each person gets along with the others in a different way, some well and some less. The conflicts and disagreements between the characters keep the plot alive. Each juror is a world of his or her own so much that it doesn’t seem like we are in a room anymore. The drama and the suspense are caused by the plot and the uncertainty regarding the final verdict. Numbers continue switching between guilty and not guilty and more evidence is sifted through. The readers ache to reach justice and discover the truth.

12 angry men Study guide and student help

12 Angry Men Movie Trailer

12 Angry Men Play - Available on Amazon

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    • DentalTalk profile image

      DentalTalk 4 years ago

      Of of my favourites and I would have loved to study it in school!