Movie Twelve Angry Men Essay Research Paper

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



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