Why does Reginald Rose make the foreman ineffective in Twelve Angry Men?

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Susan Hurn eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Making the jury foreman a weak and ineffective character works to strengthen the theme of the play. In the American system of justice, a jury has the duty to examine and weigh the evidence, without prejudice, and arrive at a just verdict; it is the responsibility of the jury foreman to provide leadership and direct deliberations so that the jury discharges its duties as they are legally and ethically bound to accomplish them.

In making the jury foreman an ineffective character, the playwright points to one flaw in the justice system that would lead to grave injustice. Also, because the foreman is not doing his job, Juror Eight, being a man of integrity, steps into the breach and becomes the leader among the members of the jury. In doing this, he challenges the power structure in the room, refusing to remain silent as an injustice occurs. The theme of the play develops from the actions of Juror Eight: the American system of justice is only as fair as those who participate in it, and when an injustice takes place, it is a person's moral responsibility to step forward and oppose it.

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Twelve Angry Men

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