What are examples of conflicts in the play Twelve Angry Men?

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The play Twelve Angry Men, written by Reginald Rose , takes place entirely in a jury deliberation room as the dozen characters referred to in the title debate whether or not the unseen defendant is guilty of murder and should be put to death. The room is hot and...

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The play Twelve Angry Men, written by Reginald Rose, takes place entirely in a jury deliberation room as the dozen characters referred to in the title debate whether or not the unseen defendant is guilty of murder and should be put to death. The room is hot and stuffy, and there's a feeling in the air that most of them just want to get the deliberation over with. They take a vote—eleven say "guilty" and only one, Juror Eight, says "not guilty," which forces them to further discuss the details of the case.

The play is rife with conflict, both between jurors—particularly Eight and Three—as they debate the merits of the evidence and between each juror and himself as he struggles internally with the notion that he might be wrong in his assessment. In terms of the latter, such error could result in the death of an innocent man, making the weight of such an internal struggle all the heavier.

We see three different types of conflict between the jurors as they debate the case. The first is called simple conflict, which is merely a disagreement of opinion over a given topic—quite often social or political, although it could be about anything. The play is rife with examples, from Juror Eight's explanation of his "not guilty" vote to a room full of dissenting opinions to a debate about the arresting officer's testimony regarding the defendant's statements to all the jurors standing up and moving away from the table during Juror Ten's bigoted rant.

The second type of conflict is called pseudo conflict and occurs more from a misunderstanding between the parties than from an actual difference of opinion. At one point in the play, Jurors Seven and Eleven get into such a conflict over the reasons for Seven switching his vote. Only after Eleven stops to truly listen to Seven's reasoning is the pseudo conflict resolved.

The third type of conflict is called ego conflict and is generated, as one might expect, between personality differences. This is most evident in headstrong individuals who don't wish to back down even if they know they're wrong and is clearly exemplified through much of the struggle between Jurors Eight and Three. One example is when Juror Eight is able to rile Three into such a tizzy that Three threatens to kill Eight, which proves Eight's point that sometimes people say things they don't mean. Here, juror Eight was able to identify and exploit Three's massive ego. Similarly, at the end of the play, we learn that Three's decision to vote guilty was really based on a troubling past with his own son rather than any evidence—a prime example of a man locked in the throes of his own ego.

In addition, a fourth type of conflict arises in the case of each juror's internal struggle. This is referred to as intrapersonal conflict and occurs when an individual must decide between two (or more outcomes), theoretically both leading to a positive result. In this case, the jurors all struggle with the notion of voting "guilty," which would bring a murderer to justice, or voting "not guilty" and allowing an innocent man to go free. The fact that the answer is not clear is what makes it so difficult for each man and is a root cause of many of the external types of conflict.

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