What are some of the main fallacies used throughout Sidney Lumet's adaption of Reginald Rose's play Twelve Angry Men?

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kipling2448 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Twelve Angry Men includes fallacies that involve the racism of Juror 10 and the anger revealed to be grounded in personal anguish manifested by Juror 3.  The script introduces viewers to the dispositions of these jurors, who would, unsurprisingly, emerge as the last holdouts as others change their votes from “guilty” to “not guilty.”  Juror 3, the angry father whose personal travails influence his perception of the young defendant’s guilt is quick to make it clear that his mind is made up before deliberations even begin, as is the case with Juror 10, who remains focused on the defendant’s Hispanic ethnicity:

NO. 3: Everybody gets a fair trial. That's the system. Well, I suppose you can't say anything against it.

NO.10: Well, look, you've gotta expect that. You know what you're dealing with.

And, again, Juror 3’s predisposition towards voting “guilty” is revealed at the outset:

NO. 3: I never saw a guiltier man in my life. . . . The man's a dangerous killer. You could see it.

 NO. 8: He's nineteen years old.

 NO. 3: That's old enough. He knifed his own father . . . An innocent little nineteen-year old kid. They proved it a dozen different ways.

The racial prejudices of Juror 10 appear at the beginning:

NO. 10: I don't mind telling you this, mister. We don't owe him a thing. He got a fair trial, didn't he? . . . 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.

 As the film progresses, the prejudices of these two jurors become more evident, as does the effect of those prejudices on other jurors:

NO. 3: . . . It's the kids. . . 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. . . I haven't seen him in three years. Rotten kid! You work your heart out....

The first two fallacies involve the stereotypes of Hispanic youths and the rebellious nature of sons.  Soon, a third fallacy emerges, that involving the stereotype of people who live in slums:

NO. 4: . . . This boy—let's say he's a product of a filthy neighborhood and a broken home. We can't help that. We're not here to go into the reasons why slums are breeding grounds for criminals. They are. I know it. So do you. The children who come out of slum backgrounds are potential menaces to society. . .

NO. 5: I've lived in a slum all my life. . . I used to play in a back yard that was filled with garbage. Maybe it still smells on me.

Additional fallacies revealed throughout the film involve the credibility of “witnesses” to the crime, the old man who claims to have heard the defendant shout “I will kill you” and the woman who claims to have seen the crime despite not having her glasses and viewing the crime through the windows of a passing train.  Eleven of the twelve jurors believe these witnesses, only to see the fallacy of those testimonies revealed upon closer examination. 

Another fallacy involved the knife used in the murder, revealed during deliberations to be considerably less unique, and, consequently, less incriminating, than originally thought; and the victim’s wound, which the jurors finally concede could not likely have come at an angle consistent with the relative heights of the victim and the defendant.

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Twelve Angry Men

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