In Twelve Angry Men, how is prejudice shown to interfere in the course of justice?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Let us remember that although justice is achieved at the end of the play, at the same time there is a sense that this is a very tenuous victory, as the forces of prejudice, apathy and bigotry that oppose justice show themselves to be very formidable indeed during the course of the play. Personal prejudice is most strongly evident in the characters of Juror Three and Juror Ten.

Consider how Juror Three is shown to judge the defendant harshly because of the own experience he has had with his son. He allows his own personal experiences to intrude into the realm of what should be a dispassionate, objective experience. Consider the following quote:

It's the kids. The way they are--you know? They don't listen. I've got a kid. When he was eight years old he ran away from a fight. I saw him. I was so ashamed, I told him right out, "I'm gonna make a man out of you or I'm gonna bust you up into little pieces trying." When he was fifteen, he hit me in the face. He's big, you know. I haven't seen him in three years. Rotten kid! You work your heart out...

Juror Three is thus shown to be prejudiced against the defendant because of his own bad experience with his child and the way in which he judges him. He is only able to see his own anger and disappointment when he thinks about the defendant.

By far a bigger force of prejudice however is the bigoted Juror Ten. He already has formed views of the defendant and sees no reason for him to waste any more time debating the boy's innocence. Note how he appeals to stereotypical views in the following quote:

We don't owe him a thing. He got a fair trial, didn't he? You know what that trial cost? He's lucky he got it. Look, we're grown-ups here. You're not going to tell us that we're supposed to believe him, knowing what he is. I've lived among 'em all my life. You can't believe a word they say. You know that?

Note the way that Juror Ten talks about "'em" and his supposed knowledge of this group of them and their natural deceit. Clearly this is a powerful example of the prejudice that threatens the somewhat fragile concept of justice that is established in this play.

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