12 Angry Men Structural Elements

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How does Rose use structural elements to strengthen his examination of the judicial system? Rose uses the structural elements of the play to further his position, critiquing the flaws of the judicial system. 12 Angry Men takes place in ‘real time’, which allows for the play’s characters to further develop and creates a sense of realism. The characters of the play are representative of the play’s message, that decisions such as the one the jurors must make are important, and cannot be viewed with apathy and walked away from.

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The apathy and prejudice that most of the jurors possessed when they initially made their decisions is something that Rose intended to criticise, as this same apathy and prejudice was clearly in 1950’s society, and may divert the judicial processes. In the beginning, the 8th juror is the only one who feels sympathy for the boy being persecuted, believing that if he is to be sentenced to death in an electric chair then his case at least needs to be treated with empathy and caution, rather than carelessly putting the case behind in the quickest fashion and moving on, from apathy or prejudice.

Over the course of the play the jurors realise that this is something they cannot walk away from, that they cannot escape from, and something that they must dedicate themselves to, they realise that the life of a young, poor boy, who lived in the slums and suffered from an abusive and harsh childhood is more important than what lies beyond the courtroom doors, and the fact that not only does the play take place in ‘real time’, but also largely takes place in one setting, better yet, one room, only conveys this feeling of the realisation that apathy is not the solution.

They are trapped, isolated from the freedom of their lives, and the apathy or prejudiced that may have been a part of their lives, and confronted with the care they must have for the life of someone else.

The washroom exists as an escape for them, a place for their true thoughts, where even the apathy and hatred within them may return, but in the end it is connected the private room in which they vote, in the end they cannot simply decide whether a boy lives or dies based on that same apathy or hatred, it should be a lengthy and important process that should take into consideration the facts and the gravity of their decision, and not be influenced or diverted by the views of the people making that decision.

Rose believes that the judicial system is flawed, yet by creating characters such as the 8th juror, the protagonist and also the first dissenter, he also believes that the judicial system is one that would be able to function with a treatment of empathy, severity and importance. By having the characters all change their decision, through empathy and the realisation of the importance of their vote, he suggests that this is the solution, rather than the personal lives, views or beliefs influencing and making the decision in a judicial process, in particular, one as severe and brutal as the one in the play.