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Twelve Angry Men

by Reginald Rose

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Why is the foreman ineffective in Twelve Angry Men?

Quick answer:

The play shows that majority rule, in and of itself, is not always just. When the jury foreman is ineffective, the other jurors take over the process of reaching a verdict. The play also illustrates that although one may be part of a group, he or she can still act responsibly as an individual and should not be swayed by majority opinion.

Expert Answers

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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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