What are some of the themes and symbols in Twelve Angry Men?

Expert Answers
kmcappello eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Many themes are explored in the play Twelve Angry Men, which follows the discussion of a jury trying to decide whether a defendant is guilty or innocent.  The themes of justice, social inequality, and social responsibility are all present throughout this discussion.

The jurors can be seen as symbols for certain parts of society.  Juror Eight is the most liberal and open-minded of the group.  It is his vote, and his dissenting voice, which keeps the jury from delivering a speedy vote of guilty.

Juror Ten, on the other hand, symbolizes the bigotry and racism present in mid-century American society.  He assumes the defendant is guilty simply because he is from a bad part of town, and is determined to see him go to jail.

The theme of justice is present throughout the play, as Juror Eight urges his fellow jurors to look at the facts rather than rely on their emotional responses.  Ideal justice is therefore shown to be both logical and fair.

The theme of class is also present, and is personified by the bigotry of Juror Ten.  Even though there was a growing middle class in the 1950's when the play was written and first performed, class struggles were still present in society, and the play suggests that a person should be judged based on the facts of the case, not their social standing.

coffeyboy | Student

12 Angry Men uses symbolism to enhance the atmosphere of the film. Sidney Lumet does this in many ways.  At the beginning of the film you will notice that 11 out of the 12 men are wearing dark suits whilst Juror 8# is wearing a light summer suit. As Juror 8# convinces the other jurors that there is plausible doubt within the case one by one the jurors remove their jackets. Basically Sidney Lumet has used tone to emphasis light and dark, good and evil, open-mindedness and narrow-mindedness. This portrayal is also backed up by when the exact moment the jurors majority vote leaps from guilty to not guilty, a thunderstorm breaks out. The thunderstorm makes the room much darker causes them to turn on the lights. The 12 men are now certainly on a path towards them all being open minded towards this case. This single idea continues through to the end of the film where the men leave the room carrying their jackets out with them instead of wearing them. It is as though they have all left their prejudices behind.


littlelesh2000 | Student

Injustice, social responsibility, social inequality.

mdalt | Student

The colour of Juror #8 suit is white. This reflects Rose's belief that he represents peace and fairness and is the typical colour associated with angels.