Movie: Twelve Angry Men Essay, Research Paper
Movie: Twelve Angry Men
The movie Twelve Angry Men begins with an eighteen year old boy from the
ghetto who is on trial for the murder of his abusive father. A jury of twelve
men are locked in the deliberation room to decide the fate of the young boy.
All evidence is against the boy and a guilty verdict would send him to die in
the electric chair. The judge informs the jurors that they are faced with a
grave decision and that the court would not entertain any acts of mercy for the
boy if found guilty.
Even before the deliberation talks begin it is apparent most of the men are
certain the boy is guilty. However, when the initial poll is taken Juror #8
(Henry Fonda) registers a shocking not guilty vote. Immediately the room is in
uproar. The rest of the jury resents the inconvenient of his decision. After
questioning his sanity they hastily decide to humor the juror #8 (Henry Fonda)
by agreeing to discuss the trial for one hour. Eventually, as the talks proceed
juror #8 slowly undermines their confidence by saying that the murder weapon is
widely available to anyone, and that the testimony of the key witness is suspect.
Gradually they are won over by his arguments and even the most narrow minded of
his fellow jurors hesitantly agrees with him. Their verdict is now a solid not
Arriving at a unanimous not guilty verdict does not come easily. The jury
encounters many difficulties in learning to communicate and deal with each other.
What seems to be a decisive guilty verdict as deliberations begin slowly
becomes a questionable not sure. Although the movie deals with issues relating
to the process of effective communication this paper will focus of two reasons
why they encounter difficulties and how they overcome them. First, we will apply
the Johari grid theory and see how it applies to their situation. Then, we will
see how each individual’s frame of reference and prejudices effect their
perception which cause difficulties in the communication process.
If we analyze the Johari grid of each juror we see a large hidden area in
the case of all of the men. Take into consideration, referred to by juror
numbers only they do not even have the benefit of knowing their names. These men
have never talked before. Each of them come from different situations with
individual and unique experiences. The public area consists solely of the
shared information provided during the trial. Their hidden area is immense
resulting in an equally large blind area. The public, hidden and blind areas are
relatively the same for each juror before beginning the deliberation. It is the
size of the unconscious area that will differ more among the men. We will see
how the contents of the unconscious area will largely effect the decision making
process of some of the jurors. Because the information contained in the
unconscious area is unrecognized it is often the most difficult to overcome.
Henry Fonda’s (Juror #8) interpersonal style would be classified as open-
receptive. He levels with the others by openly admitting that he does not know
if the boy killed his father and solicits feedback in order to make an accurate
decision. He says ?I just don’t think we should send a boy off to die without
at least talking about it first.? The example he set encourages the others to
level and be open to receive feedback. The movie illustrates the process of
leveling and soliciting feedback which can make all the difference.
The character with the largest hidden window is the boy on trial. Realizing
this, Henry Fonda (Juror #8) tries to put himself in the boys shoes to gain a
better understanding of his situation. ?The poor boy has been beaten on the head
once a day every day since he was five years old!? and ?I think if I were the
boy I’d get myself a better lawyer… He didn’t stand a chance in there.? In
this case one can only speculate as to the contents of the boys hidden area.
The important factor is his desire to comprehend the boys feelings.
One man in particular, Juror #3 (Lee J. Cobb) has a sizable unconscious
area. He has a troubled relationship with his own son that preoccupies his
thoughts. This is eluded to in a conversation between juror #7 (Jack
Warden)and himself. Looking at a picture of him and his son he says ?haven’t’
seen him in two years, kids, you work your heart out…? then he abruptly stops.
The broken relationship with his son preoccupies his thoughts as several times
throughout the movie he is found staring at the picture. His interpersonal style
would be classified as a blabbermouth. He is neither open or receptive. He has
his opinion and loves to share it. The net result is a large blind area. He is
unwilling or unable to level with the others and is also unreceptive to any
feedback. Most likely the extent of these feelings and the effect it has on his
perceptions is unconscious to him. Eventually, he finds himself the only one
maintaining a vote of guilty. He feels his sense of reality is in question and
it threatens him. This puts him on the defensive. He bursts accusing the others
of being crazy. This emotional eruption changes from bitter anger to sad
understanding. His defenses start to crumble as his unconscious emotions become
visible to him. By recognizing his unconscious emotions essentially what he has
done is level with himself. Once he did this he realized the anger and
frustration with regards to his son has been misdirected toward the accused.
With a new understanding of himself he is able to change his vote to not guilty.
Another issue dealt with in the movie is prejudice. Prejudice is defined
as premature judgment or bias. In a trial situation Jurors are asked to only
consider the evidence presented to them. Individual biases are not expected to
effect the decision making process. Unfortunately, leaving our prejudices
outside the court room door is near impossible. As the movie demonstrates
prejudice can distort our views and greatly effects our ability to make accurate
Strong prejudice is displayed by Juror #10 (Ed Begley) as he bursts into a
rage while referring to people from the ghetto, ?Look you know these people lie,
it’s born in them…they don’t need any real reason to kill someone…they get
drunk all the time, all of them, and bang! someone’s lying in the
gutter…nobody’s blaming them, for that’s their nature, violent? he even goes
on by saying ?their no good, not a one of thems anygood.? It is doubtful Ed
Begley could see past his prejudice in order to hear the evidence in the trial.
His guilty vote is cast as soon as he learns about the boys disadvantaged life
in the slums. While most of the men are aware of the stigma attached to people
from the ghetto they are willing to try to put the stereotype aside. His
outburst has caused quite a disturbance in the room. This disturbance serves two
purposes. First, it provides the ?not guilty? defenders with an understanding
that his prejudice is the reason for his opposition. It is always easier to
overcome an objection if you know what it is. Having this knowledge allows for
a more productive communication there by convincing him that he should change
his vote. Secondly, it allows him to vent his frustrations. In doing so, he
realizes the power of his emotions which forces him to step back and take a look
at what he really feels. The look on his face shows he has a realization. For
the first time he understands his prejudices have effected his perceptions.
This new understanding of himself enables him to think more clearly and
It is interesting that the most damning evidence is the testimony provided
by an eyewitness to the murder who is also a member of the boys slum community.
Yet the boy, a product of the same community is an assumed liar. Henry Fonda
(Juror #8) points out the double standard to the others when he says ?she’s on
of them too?? Juror #3 (Jack Klugman) responds to the negative comments by
informing them that he too is from the ghetto. ?Listen? he says ?I’ve lived in a
slum all my life, I’ve played in back yards that were filled with garbage, maybe
you can still smell it on me.? Another gentlemen tells him ?lets not be so
sensitive, he didn’t mean you.? Pointing out these double standards undermine
the confidence of the jurors who’s votes stemmed from pre judging.
Every man has the right to a fair trial, most would love the right to this
jury. As the movie closes the not guilty verdict is handed down. It is not
known if the boy is guilty or innocent, that will forever remain in his hidden
area. Henry Fonda (Juror #8) entered the trial with an open mind, he managed to
convince the others to do the same. The movie illustrates that everything is
not what it appears to be. Being aware of this is the first step to better