Reginald Rose, the author of Twelve Angry Men, wrote the play after his own experience sitting on the jury of a manslaughter (murder) case. Describing that time, he wrote: “This was my first experience on a jury, and it left quite an impression on me. The receipt of my jury notice activated many grumblings1 ...
How does this information add to an understanding of Twelve Angry Men? Give examples from the play.
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Rose's having served upon a jury in a case similar to the one he portrays in Twelve Angry Men certainly lends verisimilitude to his drama, and, therefore, effects a relevancy to the characters' words and actions that is more intense for the reader than if the play had no reality factor. It is, indeed, a thought-provoking play that has themes pertinent to the difficulty in attaining justice for a defendant because of the personal biases and experiences and sense of exigency that jurors bring to the deliberation table.
As portrayed by Rose from his having served upon a jury himself, people of educational, social, economic, and racial differences attain perspectives that are often tied to their individual make-up and experiences. Rose depicts these various differences by creating certain "types" in the twelve men, such as the bigoted Juror No. 10 and Juror No. 3. Only one man, Juror No. 8, is able to extend his heart and mind beyond the limitations of what he is and has experienced. He it is who firmly believes that "Justice is Blind" and all people are equally entitled to justice under the law. For, in the initial voting, he casts a "not guilty" vote solely for this reason so that the jurors will do their jobs and deliberate: "
"There were eleven votes for guilty. It's not so easy for me to raise my hand and send a boy off to die without talking about it first."
In addition, Juror No. 8 realizes the truth of what successful attorney Johnnie Cochran (renowned for attaining an acquittal in the infamous O. J. Simpson trial that cost between three and six million dollars) declared that often "the color of justice is green." For, Juror No. 8 remarks,
"I had a peculiar feeling about this trial. Somehow I felt that the defense counsel never really conducted a thorough cross-examination. I mean, he was appointed by the court to defend the boy. He hardly seemed interested. Too many questions were left unasked."
Clearly, it is not difficult for the reader to detect the voice of the author in that of Juror No. 8. Truly, his drama is a call to readers to consider the role of serving on a jury as one of great magnitude, especially if it involves a serious charge such as manslaughter.
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