12 Angry Men

Table of Contents

    • Sample Essay 1
    • Sample Essay 2
    • Sample Essay 3
    • Sample Essay 4
    • Sample Essay 5
    • Sample Essay 6
    • Sample Essay 7
    • Sample Essay 8


It is human nature to act on emotionality rather than rationality. The dramatic play, Twelve Angry Men, by Reginald Rose, depicts a seemingly open and shut case based on initially compelling evidence against a boy accused of murder. However, it becomes increasingly clear that individuals are fallible to preconceived, biased beliefs derived from past experiences, social power and rampant prejudices. Therefore, Rose cements the principle that the criminal justice system is founded upon the uncovering doubt, rather than determining guilt. That is, the seeds of doubt is representative of self-reflection on one’s initial judgements, which are subjective and inaccurate. Nevertheless, the playwright imbues an unwavering certainty in the play; individuals who are logical and faithful to legal procedures, in the face of oppression and higher power, can be certain in standing their ground in the jury room.

Rose condemns certainty in judgements which are not founded upon facts but, rather, personal afflictions and generalised prejudice. In fact, the characters in the play demonstrate how judgements based on emotional influence irrelevant to the case at hand prove to be the most certain, despite being misinformed and wholly biased. Juror Three epitomises certainty in projecting his personal experiences on the boy, asserting that he “could see” that the boy was guilty and affirming that he had “never seen a guiltier man in his life”. Rose demonstrates the irony in his confident judgement; rather than “see[ing]”, Juror Three was entirely blindsided in viewing the case through his own lens. Thus, Juror Three fails to objectively judge the case due to his conflicted relationship with his son and wrongfully projects this bias onto the accused boy through the repetition of “it was his father”. In addition, Rose demonstrates how societal bigotry is based on unreasonable attachment and certainty to a belief, which is detrimental to the justice system. Based on the boy’s “type”, Juror Ten makes overarching generalisations on the poorer faction of society through the usage of “these people” or “them”. Through numerous assumptions attributed to the boy through unfounded opinions that “you’ve got to expect that” and how “those people lie”, the playwright epitomises Juror Ten’s intolerance and shortsightedness through the claustrophobic space of the jury room. The juxtaposition of inwardness to the outward city engenders the failure of introspection, resulting in the certainty of prejudiced judgements.

Nevertheless, Rose offers the balanced view that doubting the initial certainty of a case from a logical approach transgresses the emotionality of prejudice. In many aspects, Juror Four represents desirable traits in the justice system. Despite being initially characterised as “a man of wealth and position”, Rose demonstrates how Juror Four’s clear focus to “discuss the facts” mitigates individual biases and emotional attachment to the case, allowing him to resolutely acknowledge that he “now [has] reasonable doubt”. Through Juror Four, Rose represents the higher class, corporate society of 1950s America, embodying many values of active participation and impartial thinking in the legal system. In the same vein, Juror Eleven functions as a voice of reason from a less socially powerful background as a refugee from Europe. In spite of this, Juror Eleven has resolute faith in individuals’ civic responsibilities, advocating that serving in the jury is what is “remarkable about democracy”, making America “strong”. Echoing Juror Four, Juror Eleven demonstrates the admirable ability to segregate emotionality towards the case from the facts, reminding the jurors that “they had nothing to gain or lose by the verdict” and, thus, “should no make it a personal thing.” Therefore, through Juror Four and Juror Eleven, Rose draws parallels between two characters from vastly different backgrounds, which is the unfaltering and certain adherence to rationality and the jury role. Contradictorily, critical thinking manifests doubt and self-reflection, allowing members of the jury to acknowledge that there is “reasonable doubt” in the case.

As the plot unfolds, it becomes evident that absolute certainty and doubt coexist in the courtroom. Rose validates the confident judgements of individuals who are fully conscious of their power and obligations as a juror. Juror Eight displays his certainty as the only one who votes “not guilty”, garnering the support of the audience to implicate the ideals championed by the character. Indeed, as the other jurors deliberate and hold the boy accountable for his silence, Juror Eight reminds the panel that “nobody has to prove otherwise. The burden of proof is on the prosecution”, which is a principle entrenched in “the Constitution”. This argument is purposely organised in a logical portrayal, referring back to the entrenched responsibilities of their duty in the justice system. This is in direct contrast to Juror Two, who inadequately and ineloquently rebuts Juror Eight with the stage direct that “he looks around helplessly”, solidifying the audience’s belief that the second juror no longer holds certainty in his judgement and refutes out of stubbornness. Through this juxtaposition, Rose posits that Juror Eight’s certainty in his rightful and rational argument underpins morality and legal fairness. The use of stage direction further endorses Juror Eight’s outward thinking through the recurring motif that he “looked out the window”. Distinguishing himself from the other jurors, Juror Eight erodes the certainty arising from personal bias and instils confidence on critical examination. Thus, Rose embodies the ideal of active citizenship and civic fulfilment in 1950s America, supporting an unparalleled determination in basing judgements according to interactive discussion and self-scrutiny.

Twelve Angry Men is a play which argues the necessity doubt which arises from one’s certainty in their morality and sense of responsibility. In the courtroom, where the border between guilt and innocence is clouded by emotional and personal partiality, Rose champions how justice can be ethically achieved through a focused observation of facts. The characters symbolise certain societal archetypes in American society and reveal inherent human faults under the criminal justice system. However, in the face of discriminatory attitudes and values in post-war America, Rose elevates the conscientiousness of one’s legal power above all.

Sample Essay 2: JUSTICE

The criminal justice system encapsulates many principles in order to achieve justice for the parties involved. Twelve Angry Men, by Reginald Rose, is a dramatic play which explores the intricate construct of a just and fair trial. In the context of 1950s America, Rose enquires the ideal of fairness in a society divided by ethnic and social backgrounds. As a narrative develops, it is evident that the unequal power relations of social division interferes with the objectivity of the jury verdict due to personally biased and irrational beliefs. Furthermore, Rose demonstrates how the importance of justice itself is directly dependent to one’s past experiences, resulting in differing perceptions in what constitutes a righteous outcome. Ultimately, the play is a complex insight into the contradictions of justice, arguing that a strict abidance to proving a case beyond “reasonable doubt” is the standard that should be normalised.

As a commentary on post-war America, Rose depicts bigotry as a form of injustice imposed on less fortunate groups in society. 1950s America witnessed the widening of class divisions, resulting in widespread ignorance from individuals in privileged positions. This attitude is embodied by Juror Ten, who applies his personal, discriminative views on the boy, referring to him as a part of the “slums”, who are “common ignorant slob[s]”. This is echoed by Juror Four, who asserts that “The slums are a breeding ground for criminals”. Hence, Juror Four wholly attributes his guilty verdict to the boy’s social status, making a sweeping, blanket statement that lack of financial power is directly correlated to crime. These generalised statements, which are made before examining the facts of the case, are a condemnation of the systematic misinformation perpetuated by ignorant members of society. Rose warns of the consequence of predetermined values, which thereby disregards and disrespects justice. The blatant bias of some jurors is contrasted with the characterisation of Juror Eleven, who speaks out against the lower-class prejudice, understanding that “facts may be coloured by the personalities who present them”. Hence, Juror Eleven reminds the audience that subjective beliefs are often forwarded as truth, despite their highly partial nature. Therefore, through the juxtaposition of various jurors, Rose identifies the root of prejudice; often, stigmatised opinions are automatically assumed to be the truth due to ignorance, resulting in an unequal, unjust society.

Furthermore, Rose reflects on the shortcomings of the criminal justice system, demonstrating that the notion of justice is subjective. Juror Three showcases how an individual’s understanding of justice is dependent on their past experience, allowing them to project their personal conflicts onto others. It is evident in the play that Juror Three’s longstanding resentment stems from the behaviours his son, cursing him as a “rotten kid” who had once “hit [him] in the face”. Juror Three justifies his hatred, stating that he “work[ed] [his] heart out”, implying that he had once been understanding and sympathetic towards his son. Nevertheless, due to the treatment Juror Three had previously endured, his sense of justice is resolved by physical violence and intimidation, stating to that it would be deservedly fair to “belt him one”. On the other hand, Rose depicts Juror Five on the opposite spectrum, relating back to his similar past experiences to the accused, conveying that “I’ve lived in a slum all my life”. Through the lenses of his past, Juror Five reveals that he would rather suppress traumatic memories in “try[ing] to [forget] those things”. This serves as an fascinating parallel to the boy, who also fails to recall events of his father’s death. Hence, Rose utilises the past of experience of Juror Three to demonstrate how individuals perceive achieving justice as a resolution of their personal resentments. Despite this, Juror Five’s experiences allows him and the audience to understand an empathetic definition of justice.

Rose further explores a more nuanced construction of justice, which is judicially intended to be purely focused on facts and separate from external influences. However, Juror Four is one of the last jurors to vote “not guilty”, yet, is the epitome of detached, logical thinking. That is, Juror Four relies on authoritative opinion and relevant evidence, clearly detailing “why”, as the “most damning evidence was given by the woman… who claimed she actually saw the murder”. Here, Juror Four draws from a witness’s testimony to rightfully assert his verdict, unlike the prejudiced attitudes of some jurors present. By providing the context, Rose renders Juror Four’s judgement as entirely plausible. In addition, Juror Four is characterised as rational and level-headed, despite the rising tensions of the deliberations, stating that “we ought to be able to behave like gentlemen”. As the emotionality of the discussion is represented by pathetic fallacy in the heat of the jury room, Juror Four’s calm mannerisms is further portrayed as admirable. Though, notably, Juror Four initially does not believe that the case possesses adequate doubt.  Nevertheless, Rose contends that the idea of “reasonable doubt” is, to an extent, founded upon a level of human empathy. This is conveyed through Juror Nine, who raises the important point that witness testimony is not always reliable, as someone like the old man “like this needs to be recognised”, positing self-interest as a possible motivation for the witness to “lie”. Rose demonstrates that human nature and the ability to view the case empathetically is a necessary skill to recognise “reasonable doubt” in addition to rationality. Thus, only through this can justice be realised.

Twelve Angry Men is a reflection of both societal discourses and human nature. Rose illustrates that the idea of justice stems from individual beliefs and changing values of society. With the rise of social hierarchies and wealth disparities of post-war America, Rose argues that such inequalities are damaging for the criminal justice system. Furthermore, Rose highlights the essentiality for one to remove themselves from unresolved, personal conflicts, as this shapes their understanding of justice. Despite this, Rose demonstrates the delicate balance between detached, factual approaches and compassionate empathy required to scrutinise the existence of “reasonable doubt”.

Sample Essay 3: Twelve Angry Men power

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