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Twelve Angry Men

by Reginald Rose
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How does the play Twelve Angry Men demonstrate that tolerance can eventually overcome prejudice and anger?

While the play Twelve Angry Men does show that tolerance can overcome anger and prejudice to some extent, it is not clear whether or not any of the jurors have become more tolerant after the trial.

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In the drama Twelve Angry Men , one juror in particular, Juror 3, is very angry, and another, Juror 10, is bigoted. These two men allow their emotions to influence their reaction to the evidence and their opinion regarding the verdict. Both men vote "guilty" from the beginning and are...

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In the drama Twelve Angry Men, one juror in particular, Juror 3, is very angry, and another, Juror 10, is bigoted. These two men allow their emotions to influence their reaction to the evidence and their opinion regarding the verdict. Both men vote "guilty" from the beginning and are among the last to be won over to the "not guilty" verdict. 

Does the drama demonstrate that tolerance can overcome anger and bigotry? In a sense, perhaps, but in a sense, no. The man who is angry is projecting the anger he has toward his own son onto the defendant, who is about the same age. It is not clear whether he understands himself why he is so angry and why he feels anger toward the defendant. In the 1957 motion picture version, the man accidentally pulls out a photograph of his son near the end of the drama, and when he sees the picture, he tears it up, then breaks down crying and mutters, "Not guilty." It appears he realizes at this point that he has concatenated the two boys in his emotions, and this realization allows him to break the emotional link so he can vote "not guilty." It is not tolerance that overcomes his anger, but the peer pressure from the other men that forces him to recognize the root of his anger and separate it from the case at hand. Whether he remains angry at his son or not is unclear, but at least it appears he is able to release his unfounded anger toward the defendant.

The example of the bigoted man, Juror 10, is also interesting. He refuses to consider the evidence in the case because his mind is made up about the defendant's guilt based on the defendant being one of "those people." The ethnicity of the defendant and the part of the city he lives in, the slums, are enough to convince the man of the boy's guilt. At one point in the trial, the man goes on a bigoted rant, and the other jurors respond by turning their backs to him or moving away from him while he is spewing his prejudice. Eventually one juror tells him to sit down and be quiet and to not speak again. It does not appear that the juror has changed his opinions about the ethnic group and become more tolerant; however, he does change his verdict to "not guilty" at the next vote. Again, it is the peer pressure brought to bear on him by the other men in the form of a public shaming that causes him to change his vote, yet we have no indication that the man has become a more tolerant person. We can hope that he will take this lesson to heart, but the drama gives us no indication that will happen.

For these two jurors, anger and bigotry interfere with their ability to see the facts clearly. Significant peer pressure brought to bear on them by the other jurors results in them setting aside their anger and prejudice for the moment, but there is nothing to show that they have learned to be more tolerant of others. If one imagines how those jurors behave after the jury disbands, one could see two scenarios play out: one in which each man has learned to be more tolerant, and one in which they continue in their anger or prejudice. From this drama, it is more accurate to say that appropriate peer pressure can result in the suppression of intolerant behavior. 

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