12 Angry Men (1957 film)

12 Angry Men (1957 film) Symbols, Allegory and Motifs

Voting (Motif)

Throughout the deliberation process, the jurors vote at different junctures to determine where each of them stands. Every time they vote, someone has changed their mind about the verdict. The motif of voting represents the importance of democracy and each member of the jury having their opinions heard within the judicial process. It is a symbol of the ways the men must come together and make a decision as a group, even if they have very different perspectives.

The Switch Knife (Symbol)

The jurors examine the murder weapon, a switch knife, which the prosecution insisted is very hard to come by, and so must have belonged to the defendant, the 18-year-old boy. Juror 8, who believes that there is more reasonable doubt than anyone is letting on, goes out and purchases a switch knife himself at a pawn shop near the boy's house in between trial days. He brings the knife in and tells everyone that it was not hard to find. In this moment, the knife symbolizes the reasonable doubt upon which 8 is insisting, and shows that some of the information that was presented as fact in the trial is actually unreliable.

Scratching nose (Symbol)

Towards the end of the meeting, Juror 9 points out that Juror 4 keeps scratching his nose because of the indentation left by his glasses. He draws a parallel with the woman who testified that she witnessed the murder, suggesting that she had the same indentations in her nose that Juror 4 has. This suggests to the jurors that she typically wears glasses, and that she was very likely not to have been wearing them when she is alleged to have witnessed the murder. This convinces everyone in the room that there is enough reasonable doubt not to deliver a "guilty" verdict. Thus, 4's nose-scratching symbolizes the habits of the typical glasses-wearer, and then becomes important in figuring out some key elements of the case they are deliberating about.

Storm (Symbol)

In the middle of the deliberation, the skies open up and it begins to pour rain outside. The jurors are trapped in the room, unable to come to a consensus, while the world is washed clean by the thunderstorm outside. The storm represents several things. It symbolizes the conflict and disagreement taking place inside the deliberation room. Eventually, however, it also represents the catharsis that the characters go through in facing their own personal prejudices and preconceptions to get to the truth. This is particularly reflected in Juror 3's cathartic outburst and change of heart at the end. When the men leave the courthouse, it is no longer raining, and the weather is calm yet again.

The Picture (Symbol)

A big part of Juror 3's change of heart comes about when a picture falls out of his wallet onto the ground at the end of the deliberation. It is a picture of him and his son, smiling with their arms around each other's shoulders. It is an image of paternal love, but 3 mentioned earlier that he and his son have not spoken in two years, and have had a difficult relationship. In the middle of an angry tirade about the defendant's guilt, 3 is confronted with the photograph and it reduces him to tears. It represents his own violent and dis-connective impulses, and the ways that his personal hangups have informed his perception of the case. He desperately wants to feel connected to other people, but he is alienated and isolated by his anger. The reminder of his estrangement from his son is a painful one.