12 Angry Men

12 Angry Men Essay Questions

  1. 1

    How does Rose maintain doubt as to the defendant's guilt or innocence throughout the play?

    Rose accomplishes this factual ambiguity by never actually allowing any of the jurors to definitively prove his innocence. Instead, they are only really able to prove that he is not definitely guilty, or "not guilty beyond a reasonable doubt." There are many reasonable arguments as to why he may very well have been guilty, but they ultimately don't prove strong enough to convict.

  2. 2

    Explain how the idea of 'reasonable doubt' particularly pertains to this case.

    In the American criminal system, those charged with crimes need to be proven guilty 'beyond a reasonable doubt.' It is up to a jury to decide what that means and how to apply it in the case. Here, 8th Juror was able to put enough doubt into their minds, by challenging the evidence, to prove to them that they could not be sure enough to convict the defendant.

  3. 3

    Give examples of how the personal insight of the jurors affected their understanding of the case?

    9th Juror is able to offer up to the other jurors a particular reading of the old man who testified, as he felt like he "knew" him, perhaps based on a shared life experience. This affected the way he understood his testimony. More concretely, 5th Juror grew up around knife fights, where switchblades were commonly used, which allowed him to offer insight into how a wound would or would not be made.

  4. 4

    What examples of prejudice can be found in the play?

    10th Juror is the most obvious example, immediately against the defendant just because he was "one of them." Similarly, 3rd Juror is prejudiced against the defendant because he reminds him of his own son, from whom he is estranged. On the other extreme, 8th Juror is prejudiced to give the defendant special consideration because he had a hard upbringing and comes from a poor background.

  5. 5

    What role does the Foreman play in controlling the other jurors?

    On a practical level, the Foreman is charged with moderating their discussion and taking regular polls as to the judgment of the jurors. In this instance, he has the much grander job of controlling the many larger and temperamental personalities in the room. He is criticized at points for how he controls the room, but ultimately is able to keep the room from descending into chaos. In some ways, he represents the American self-governance system.

  6. 6

    Why might Rose have decided to place the division of Acts I and II where he did?

    On a dramatic level, Act I ends with a very exciting moment that would serve to make a powerful end to the first act, right before an intermission. Also, it marks a very important moment in the play where the balance of power shifts. 3rd Juror loses control, leaping at 8th Juror, proving one of 8th Juror's point and making himself look unstable and unreliable. Act II is also marked by a different tone, outwardly manifested by the changing weather.

  7. 7

    How do the conditions of the jury room mimic the attitudes of the jurors?

    One of the first thing the jurors comment on is the temperature in the room, which is oppressively hot. It seems that Rose uses this as a device to emphasize the heated discussions going on inside the room. Also, we might think that these men are driven to madness quickly by the heat. In the second act, it begins raining outside, and they are able to turn on the fan, marking a return to reason for many of the jurors.

  8. 8

    How is 8th Juror represented as the hero of the play?

    While we are unsure whether he is right or wrong, 8th Juror is one of the only jurors who is unaffected by any kind of negative prejudices. He respects the system and the value of life, causing him to want to consider the case more carefully than others. He is motivated simply by the idea of surviving justice and no other personal gain or affirmation comes into play.

  9. 9

    Compare and contrast the rational and irrational arguments for guilt from the jurors.

    4th Juror is able to move through the evidence logically and thoroughly, determining that the defendant is most certainly guilty. Similarly, 6th Juror is moved away from the idea that they can't have any doubt and convict him, based on the very real fear of putting a killer back on the streets. Conversely, we have 10th Juror, who irrationally presumes guilt upon the defendant because of his ethnicity and background. The difference is that the former arguments are founded in evidence and logic, while the latter is not.

  10. 10

    How does the fact that the jurors are all male impact the play?

    Rose definitely plays off of the masculine energy to create these archetypical characters. The title of the play is '12 Angry Men,' and it certainly does have an understanding of how particularly men settle problems in a confrontational, often personal, manner. There is a definite competitiveness, especially between 3rd Juror and 8th Juror, that is somehow intrinsically masculine. The idea of the father/son relationship is so strong because we have the understanding of each one of these men as a potential father, some confirmed.