Twelve Angry Men

1 January 2017

Does Twelve Angry Men show that prejudice can obscure the truth? In the play Twelve Angry Men, Reginald Rose shows that prejudices can prevent jurors from seeing the truth. This is evident throughout the play as juror 10 blinded to the facts because prejudice clouds his judgement. However, besides prejudice, Rose also show personal bias, ignorance and a weak characteristic can take away jurors’ abilities to see the truth. For instance, juror 3’s bad relationship with his son in the past and juror7’s ignorant attitude towards the case ultimately affect their perspective about the facts and evidence presented in the case.

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As a result, these factors not only obscure the truth but also make it hard for the jury to reach a just verdict and threaten the credibility of the jury system. It’s a scary but a true reality that prejudice has the power to overshadow the facts and evidence, which can prevent jurors from seeing the truth. From the start of the play, juror 4 votes the defendant guilty of murder, not based on facts but entirely based on prejudice and stereotyping the defendant. The fact that the defendant “was born in a slum” (p. 12) and the generalisation from the outside world: “Children from slum backgrounds are potential menaces to society. ” (p. g 12) convince juror 4 that the defendant must be guilty. Because of prejudice, he cannot see the details like the defendant’s birthplace and circumstances may potentially be used to prove that he does not have a strong motive. As pointed out by the 8th Juror, the defendant was raised in a slum and had “been hit so many times” (p. g 11) that a few slaps from his father cannot make the defendant commit patricide.

Therefore, the defendant does not have a strong motive. When we compare juror 8 and juror4’s reasoning, we can see that prejudice and stereotyping can veil the truth of the case and hide it from jurors and consequently prevent them from seeing the truth. However, juror 4 is only prejudiced at the start of the play and is totally different compare to juror 10 who is prejudiced and “a bigot who place no value on any human life to save his own” (Rose 1956, p. g 114) throughout the play. In the early part of the play, juror 10 claims: “You can’t believe a word they say.

I mean they’re born liars” (p. g 8). This emphasize the problem of his prejudice is that he views the defendant not as an individual but as a representative of a group which means his perspective towards the defendant is different compared with other jurors. This is why juror 10 cannot see the truth, as prejudiced takes over his thinking abilities and does not let him comprehend the facts of the case. Furthermore, due to his immense prejudice, he often confuses his prejudice with the facts of the case. We can see this when he says “Let’s talk facts” (p. 51) but in reality he is talking about his prejudice when he says: “These people are born to lie” (p. g 51). Ultimately, in order for him to see the truth, he needs to get over his prejudiced, views and judge the defendant as an individual. This demonstrates that irrational prejudice will prevent jurors from understand facts and consequently obscure the truth. Not only prejudice obscures the truth; personal bias also obscures the truth and prevents jurors from seeing the truth. This is seen through juror 3 who has a young son about the age of the defendant.

From the play, it is obvious that the relationship between him and his son is a violent one with him vowing to “make a man outta you or… bust you in half trying” (p. g 12) and the relationship ends with “a battle” (p. g 12). The estranged relationship with his son impacts on how juror 3 sees facts and decision. He views the defendant in the same way as he views his violent son who he wants to punish. This is why juror 3 refuses to listen to facts and doubts, which consequently makes him unable to see the truth. We can see this when he says: “That goddam rotten kid. I know him what they’re like.

What they do to you. How they kill you every day” (p. g 59). Personal bias takes over his thinking abilities so he cannot understand facts and evidence. Without the understanding of facts and evidence, he will never be able to reach for the truth so in order to reach for the truth he needs to triumph over his personal bias. Even though prejudice has the power to obscure the truth, it seems personal bias has the same power in preventing jurors from seeing the truth. Another factor that can obscure the truth of the case is the ignorance and weak characteristics of some jurors.

This particularly applies to juror 7 who is ignorant, impatient and just wants to finish early so that he can watch the ball game. In juror 7’s opinion, the case is a “Goddam waste of time” (p. g 4) and he has better things to do rather than being a juror. His statement indicates that he does not understand how significant the jury process is and how is the truth affects the defendant’s life. Due to his ignorant attitude, he cannot see how facts are important in determining the truth and consequently unwilling to understand the facts.

We can see this when he says: “You couldn’t change my kind if you talked for one hundred years”. Ignorance has obscured the truth without him realises it. On the hand, juror 2 is struggles to see the truth because of his weak characteristics and lack of knowledge. This shows through when he says: “I just think he’s guilty. I mean nobody proved otherwise” (p. g 9) indicates that he is timid and shy. Due to his weak characteristics, his decision is easily influenced by other jurors and prevents him from finding the truth.

As a result, he can’t see the truth of the case. Through juror 7 and juror 2, we can see that a weak characteristic and ignorance impact on a juror’s decision, affect how they see the truth and, consequently, they can’t see the truth of the case. In conclusion, in the play Twelve Angry Men, not only prejudice obscures the truth but personal bias, ignorance and a weak characteristic also obscure the truth. These factors affect the way jurors see facts and clouds their judgement which lead jurors unable to see the truth and decide an unfair verdict.

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