How does Twelve Angry Men relate to justice?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Clearly, this brilliant play has much to say about justice and both its intensely fragile nature and yet its ability to triumph in situations that seem to try to prevent it from triumphing. The attitude of a number of the jurors shows the way in which justice can be so easily undermined by the various forces of prejudice, complacency and lack of civic responsibility. A number of the jurors clearly show themselves to be almost incapable of considering the case in an unbiased fashion and being open to other lines of enquiry. Consider Juror Seven for example and his desire to get this case sorted as quickly as possible:

Right. This better be fast. I've got tickets to The Seven Year Itch tonight. I must be the only guy in the whole world who hasn't seen it yet.

Clearly, such a blatant disregard for the importance of justice shows that he should never have been selected for jury service in the first place. Juror Three is shown to have an extremely biased opinion on the case because of his own relationship with his son. Of course, Juror Ten is noted for his bigoted comments and the way that he is completely ruled by prejudice.

What saves justice is Juror Eight, who prevents his emotions from becoming involved in the case insists on studying the case so that no miscarriage of justice occurs. How we view the theme of justice depends largely on our view of human nature. On the one hand, justice is saved only by the presence of Juror Eight, which would indicate that this play is a warning of how tenuous our claim of having a "just" legal system actually is. On the other hand, justice does triumph against the forces that seek to oppose it, perhaps indicating that the play presents us with an overall optimistic message about justice and how having twelve people to decide upon it should give enough chance of ensuring that there is at least somebody like Juror Eight in each group.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial