Twelve Angry Men

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Twelve Angry Men Act 3 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The Guard enters the jury room because he heard the shouting. The Foreman says there's nothing wrong and returns the diagram of the apartments. The jurors are silent. Three ask them what they're looking at, but everyone is silent. Eventually Four points out that he can't see why they're behaving like children. Eleven says they have an important responsibility to decide on the guilt or innocence of another person and they shouldn't make this a personal decision.
The Guard’s intervention shows that the situation in the jury room has gotten out of hand. The silence of the other jurors shows that the tide has turned against Three in favor of Eight. Three shows how one’s actions impact how others think about the things they say. Three undermines his goal that the kid should die.
Themes
Reflection of American Society Theme Icon
Justice Theme Icon
Certainty and Doubt Theme Icon
Prejudice vs. Sympathies Theme Icon
Nine thanks Eleven for reminding them of their opportunity to be unbiased judges. Four says he's glad that they can be civilized about this process. Six proposes another vote. Three says he wants it to be an open ballot vote, so they know where each juror stands. The Foreman, Three, Four, Seven, Ten, and Twelve vote guilty. Two, Five, Six, Eight, Nine, and Eleven vote not guilty. The vote is evenly split.
Eleven and Four help return the group to a sense of normalcy. Six’s proposal of another vote is revealed to be due to his own changed opinion. Three’s insistence on an open ballot shows Three’s nature as a bully: he wants to know whom to target and distrust.
Themes
Certainty and Doubt Theme Icon
Prejudice vs. Sympathies Theme Icon
Three says that he's ready to declare a hung jury. Four asks Eleven, Two, and Six why they changed their minds. Six says it seems the old man did not see the boy run downstairs nor could he have heard the scream. He also says that if the kid did yell, “I'm going to kill you” then Three’s actions show that this doesn't mean anything about intent.
Six’s changed mind is due, in part, to Three’s actions rather than simply the new doubts about the evidence. Three’s willingness to declare a hung jury shows his exasperation and anger because he believes another jury would convict the kid.
Themes
Reflection of American Society Theme Icon
Certainty and Doubt Theme Icon
Stubbornness and Taking a Stand Theme Icon
The Foreman says he doesn't think they'll ever agree on anything. Eight points out that at first he was alone, but now five others agree with him. Three says that he'll never be convinced. Twelve says they’re a hung jury. Eight insists they won't be a hung jury.
The Foreman loses hope of a unanimous decision, but, unlike Three, this isn’t due to his stubbornness or anger. Three’s actions show stubbornness for the sake stubbornness.
Themes
Stubbornness and Taking a Stand Theme Icon
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The Foreman proposes another vote to determine whether or not the jurors think they're a hung jury. Eleven says they can't even agree on whether or not the window should be open. The other jurors agree to a vote on the question of whether they’re a hung jury. This vote will determine whether or not they’ll keep discussing the case. This vote is split 6 to 6 as well.
The vote to determine whether or not they are a hung jury engages the themes of justice and certainty versus doubt. The jurors need to decide whether or not they’ll agree and this depends on how strongly they feel confident of their votes.
Themes
Reflection of American Society Theme Icon
Certainty and Doubt Theme Icon
Four decides to change his vote and says, “we are not a hung jury” because he believes the kid is guilty. The discussion must go on. Four asks Two why he changed his mind. Two says that Eight seemed confident and made good arguments, while Three grew angry and mean. Four says these considerations don't change the guilt of the boy.
Four, true to his rational character, realizes he cannot sacrifice his certainty of the kid’s guilt. Until the end, Four is one of the most certain jurors (more so even than Eight, who works off of a feeling). Two shows his persuadable nature.
Themes
Justice Theme Icon
Certainty and Doubt Theme Icon
Four says he doesn't think there is a doubt. He says that the track of the train is straight in front of that building and that trains are loudest when going around curves. Therefore, the old man might have heard a high-pitched scream. Four also asks, what if the old man was wrong about how long it took him to get to the door, but right about seeing the kid running down the stairs? He points out that the absence of fingerprints on the knife must mean that the killer took time to wipe the fingerprints away.
Four’s counter-argument shows how speculation about possibilities other than the kid’s guilt can be countered by further speculation. He doesn’t realize the logical error in departing even further from the facts presented in court by speculating about what parts of the testimonies were lies or truths (and casting further doubt on the testimonies).
Themes
Certainty and Doubt Theme Icon
Four says that it may have taken the murderer about 39 seconds (the same time they calculated it took the old man to move from his bedroom to the hallway door) to clean the fingerprints and get down the stairs, so the old man could have seen him. The Foreman says that they reconstructed the old man's movements and timed them, so they should also reconstruct and time the crime.
Four’s reenactment parallels and compliments Eight’s reenactment, but now the same method is used on the opposite side of the argument. Because this first reenactment was accepted, the jurors feel the need to accept the second reenactment, as well.
Themes
Justice Theme Icon
Certainty and Doubt Theme Icon
Three is very supportive of Four as he starts to outline his reasoning. He offers the knife to Eight, saying he can do the stabbing in the reenactment, but Four says he'll do it. Three proposes that Seven be the one to be stabbed and fall. Four asks whether the murderer might look at his victim for a second or two. Eight says that seems reasonable. Three points out that the father may have writhed around for a few seconds, and the kid may have stood there watching. Perhaps the kid held his father’s mouth to prevent him from crying out.
Three appears as Four’s assistant throughout the reenactment, egging him on and organizing the steps of the crime. Four’s reenactment involves even more logical assumptions than Eight’s reenactment—Would the killer look at this victim? For how long? These assumptions require the jurors to put themselves in the shoes of the murderer and consider what he would do.
Themes
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Certainty and Doubt Theme Icon
Four also points out that anyone who would wipe the fingerprints from a knife would pay attention to other incriminating clues. The jurors should take into consideration the time it takes to wipe fingerprints off the doorknob, as well as the knife.  Four appeals to Two to time this reenactment as well. Two waits for a few seconds, saying he wants the second hand to be at 60 and then stamps his foot. Four reenact the crime. He cries out, “I'm going to kill you,” stabs downward, Seven collapses, Seven writhes, Four stares at him, Four cleans the knife, he looks around to check the room, he rushes to the door and clean the doorknob on both sides, before calling to Two to stop. Two says that took 29 and a half seconds.
Four emerges as a “rational” opponent to Eight, as opposed to Three who bases his belief in the kid’s guilt on emotion. Yet now, under Four’s influence, the jury is aggressively thinking through the evidence—the give and take between Four and Eight is not personal or angry, and leads to deeper understanding. The jury may still not be in agreement, but even in their disagreements, and because of their disagreements, they are doing their job.
Themes
Reflection of American Society Theme Icon
Justice Theme Icon
Certainty and Doubt Theme Icon
Four points out that their reenactment didn't take the time it took the kid to run down the stairs into consideration. Four says the old man may have been wrong about the time it took him to move to the door, but it is still reasonable to assume he might have seen the kid running down the stairs. Four says the old man’s story may well be true. Eight agrees, except for the fact that the old man swore it was only 15 seconds. Eight says they are now accusing the old man of lying in one case and telling the truth in another.
Four’s reenactment supposes that the old man was wrong about some things (the time it took to get to the door), but right about other things (who he saw). The one problem seems to be the old man’s insistence on it being only 15 seconds. Eight focuses again on the integrity of the evidence and the integrity of the interpretation of that evidence. He wants to make sure that if they are going to come to a guilty verdict that they first investigate every reasonable doubt.
Themes
Certainty and Doubt Theme Icon
Two says that he will change his vote once more back to guilty. Six says he's not sure and wants to talk some more. He says he's “sort of swinging back toward guilty.” Eleven says he is now in real doubt. Five says, “guilty. I was right the first time.” The vote is 9 to 3 in favor of guilty.
While Eight is not persuaded, others are. Two shows his indecisiveness and lack of confidence in his own opinion. Five satisfaction about feeling “right” suggests a personal motivation that is separate from caring about eliminating all doubt. Eleven has the opposite reaction: any oscillating convinces him of his doubt.
Themes
Reflection of American Society Theme Icon
Justice Theme Icon
Certainty and Doubt Theme Icon
Eight asks one more question about the old man downstairs. He wants to know who among the jurors lives in an apartment building. Eleven says he doesn't, but he remembers visiting the scene of the crime with the other jurors and reminds them all of how dark the hall was and how they stumbled on the steps. Eleven says the old man claims he recognized a running figure in that very dark hallway. Three says Eleven is just making things up.
Eleven takes up Eight’s style of reasoning. He immediately sees the problem with identifying a person running down the stairs in the dark apartment building when Eight introduces the subject. Eight has slowly helped others see his doubt by pointing out aspects of testimonies that seem improbable.
Themes
Certainty and Doubt Theme Icon
Twelve says that they ought to admit they are a hung jury. Eleven asks Seven if he truly believes there is no reasonable doubt. Seven says yes, and Eleven questions whether he understands the term “reasonable doubt.” Seven angrily asks who Eleven is to talk to him like that. He says that Eleven came to America running for his life, and now he's telling another man how America works. Four says no one is asking where anyone else in the jury room comes from or where their fathers come from. Eight says maybe it wouldn't hurt them all to learn from an immigrant because they are not without fault.
Eleven and Seven clash again, and this time on a more significant topic than having the window open or closed. Seven sees Eleven as an outsider, and, therefore, as less knowledgeable about America. Four points out the hypocrisy in Seven’s statements. Seven falls silent when Four says no one is asking where anyone’s father came from. It is implied that Seven’s father was an immigrant and just as much of an “outsider.” Eight’s comment that they all have faults is another way of saying they could all be wrong, and by extension that doing everything they can to face and overcome their doubts is the only way to counteract the normal human tendency to make mistakes, to be wrong.
Themes
Reflection of American Society Theme Icon
Prejudice vs. Sympathies Theme Icon
Seven apologizes and asks Eight if that apology was what he was looking for. Eight says it was. The Foreman says that they should all stop arguing and focus on constructive ideas only. Two says there's something that's been bothering him: the stab wound made at a downward angle. Three says that was gone over in court extensively. Two says he wasn't convinced. It seems like the shorter kid should not have stabbed his taller father with a downward stroke.
Although Seven apologizes, he directs his sarcasm at Eight, and shows little true repentance. Two also begins to notice discrepancies as he points out the type of stab wound as a cause for doubt. Like Eight, he homes in on a detail that seems improbable. Notice how Three is often trying not to investigate, not to face the evidence and wrestle with doubt.
Themes
Reflection of American Society Theme Icon
Certainty and Doubt Theme Icon
Three says that he'll demonstrate how a shorter man could kill a taller man with a downward stroke of a switch knife. Eight stands up and Three takes the knife before crouching down to be 6 inches shorter than Eight. He opens the knife and holds it up before stabbing downward. Two cries, “look out!” But Three stops the knife just shy of Eight's chest. Six and Five don't find it funny, although Three laughs.
Three and Eight physically embody their conflict, which has been limited to words, as they reenact the stabbing, up until the vital moment. The reaction of the other jurors shows that the tension between Three and Eight is extreme. Three’s laughter gives him a maniacal edge.
Themes
Stubbornness and Taking a Stand Theme Icon
Eight says that nobody's hurt and Three says that he just demonstrated how he'd stop a taller man. Six says, “I guess there's no argument.” Eight asks Six if he's ever stabbed a man and Six says no. Eight asks Three who also says no, so Eight asks how he knows how a stabbing is done. Eight wants to know if Three has ever seen a man stabbed. Three has not.
Six is persuaded, but stopped in his tracks by Eight’s point that neither he nor Three has no real knowledge about switch knife fighting. Eight argues that they should only base their assumptions on experience, on what they know. Assumptions must be understood within the limitations of what they’ve experienced.
Themes
Certainty and Doubt Theme Icon
Eight points out that the kid was an experienced knife fighter; he was sent to reform school for stabbing someone else. Eight says that holding the knife overhand seems like an awkward way to handle it. Five suddenly exclaims that he has seen knife fights before in his community. “Far too many of them,” he says, and adds that it's funny he didn't think about this before, but he guesses that one tries to forget those kind of negative memories.
The kid has experience with switch knife fights, as does Five. Earlier many of the other jurors seemed to dismiss five, but now his expertise is important as the other jurors consider Five’s first person knowledge of knife fights to be acceptable and convincing evidence. Again, Five’s similarities to the accused kid are reinforced.
Themes
Certainty and Doubt Theme Icon
Five says that a switch knife is always used underhanded, and that anyone who has used such a knife before would never stab downward. Eight confirms that the kid could not have made the type of downward stab that killed his father. Three and Ten are not convinced. Seven says that they're not making any progress.
Five’s knowledge confirms that the kid would have to act like an inexperienced switch knife fighter to make the fatal wound, and he is not inexperienced. This does not convince the jurors who have only emotional reasons for accusing the kid.
Themes
Certainty and Doubt Theme Icon
Prejudice vs. Sympathies Theme Icon
Eight asks for the chance to try to pull this evidence together. Eight requests that the jurors look at the situation logically and consistently. He asks them: is the kid smart or is the kid dumb? Eight says that this kid is experienced with a switch knife, and it would take a very stupid kid to buy a knife and then murder a man with that knife on the very same night. Eight says it would take a smart kid, on the other hand, to remember, in a moment of great emotion and anger, to use a different type of stabbing that would not be associated with him. A smart kid would wipe the fingerprints away and might wait until the train was passing in order to cover the noise of the murder.
Eight’s comprehensive argument for reasonable doubt is once again an example of his ability to put together a good narrative. But the point is not that Eight is saying “here’s what happened” in the same way Three is with his “the kid is guilty position.” Instead, Eight is showing that there are doubtful elements to the “he is guilty” narrative that initially were easy to overlook. Eight just refuses to overlook them.
Themes
Certainty and Doubt Theme Icon
Prejudice vs. Sympathies Theme Icon
Nine says that because the woman across the tracks saw the murder, someone else on the train might've also seen the murder. It would take a dumb kid to take that chance. Eight continues the kid is dumb enough to use an obvious switch knife, but then becomes smart in the moment of using that knife. He's dumb enough to kill his father as the train passes, but smart enough to clean the fingerprints. For the boy to be guilty, he would have to change from dumb to smart and back again. He would have to be dumb enough that he couldn't even come up with a good alibi. This much inconsistency shows that there is a reasonable doubt.
Nine adds his thoughts to Eight’s line of reasoning, using the same approach. Inconsistency is again linked to reasonable doubt. Eight is not trying to prove the kid is smart or dumb—he’s not focused on the kids character or traits. He’s trying to show that the story of the kid’s guilt can only make sense if you accept a strange inconsistency in the kid’s character.
Themes
Reflection of American Society Theme Icon
Certainty and Doubt Theme Icon
Prejudice vs. Sympathies Theme Icon
Eight says that the old man downstairs swore it took him 15 seconds to move from his bedroom to the door, but it must've been almost 40 seconds. Nine asks, can the old man lie only part of the time? Eight says that for the kid to be guilty he must be both stupid and smart and for the kid to be guilty the old man must be a liar and not a liar. All this leads to reasonable doubt. Seven says that he now feels a reasonable doubt.
The same process of reasoning is undergone for the old man downstairs: is he a liar or is he not? An inconsistency in lies and truth telling calls everything into doubt. Seven is convinced. Throughout, Seven has been particularly engaged when topics of truth and lies are raised. So questioning the old man’s testimony finally convinces him.
Themes
Certainty and Doubt Theme Icon
Prejudice vs. Sympathies Theme Icon
Eight calls for another vote and the Foreman says they will vote by show of hands. He asks that all those voting “not guilty” raise their hands. Every hand is raised except those of Three, Four, and Ten. Ten says he cannot understand how others believe the kid is innocent. He says that "those people" always lie and that they don't feel the same way about killing as others do. He says that violence is part of their natures and that they don't care about human life. As he speaks, Five gets up from the table and goes to the window, then Nine gets up and goes to the window, and then Seven does.
The tide has shifted in Eight’s favor, as all are convinced of reasonable doubt except Three, Four, and Ten. Ten is angrily spurred to reveal the full extent of his hatred and prejudice. The moment in which the other jurors move to the window is important: it is a rejection, by this set of people now acting as a group, not just of juror Ten but the prejudice-based arguments he is making. The window was originally an object of division among the jurors. Now it is a symbol of most of the jury rejecting the prejudices of Ten, even as they regard the world outside the jury room through that window.
Themes
Reflection of American Society Theme Icon
Prejudice vs. Sympathies Theme Icon
Ten says that “those people” are always drinking and fighting and that if someone gets killed it doesn't matter. Eight, Two, and Six go to the window. Ten says he's known some of these people and they have no feelings. The Foreman, Seven, and Twelve go to the window. Ten says these people are no good and this kid is one of them. Three stays at the table, while Four gets up and moves towards Ten. Ten wonders what's going on and why no one is listening to him. Four stands over him until Ten grows silent.
Ten’s prejudice shows “us versus them” thinking. He identifies all the jurors as being among a good “us” and the kid among a bad “them,” despite Five’s background and the diverse backgrounds of other jurors. This prejudice is clear and cruel. Three, in his need for the kid to be guilty, stands with Ten.
Themes
Reflection of American Society Theme Icon
Prejudice vs. Sympathies Theme Icon
Four threatens Ten that if he speaks up again he'll “split [his] skull.” There is a long pause. Four tells everyone to sit down and the jurors return to their seats. Four says he still believes the boy is guilty and that the most important evidence comes from the testimony of the woman across the street. Three instantly agrees, also saying that this is the most important testimony.
Four cannot stand Ten’s prejudice and threatens violence. This power play puts Ten in his place because Four, who still believes the kid is guilty, is reacting to his prejudice and not his judgment of the kid’s crime. Four returns the discussion to rational analysis.
Themes
Reflection of American Society Theme Icon
Prejudice vs. Sympathies Theme Icon
Eight suggests they go over the woman’s testimony in detail. Four says that the woman explained how she went to bed at 11 o'clock next to the open window, and that from the window she could see into the window across the street. She was unable to fall sleep and turned to the window at 12:10 AM. She saw the kid stab his father. Four says that in view of this testimony, he can't vote “not guilty.”
Eight’s suggestion that they go over the testimony in detail is familiar. He looks for any discrepancies that make the woman’s story improbable. Four accepts the story at face value, and, without it being discredited, cannot vote “not guilty.” Reasonable doubt is a high bar for him.
Themes
Certainty and Doubt Theme Icon
Three says that the other evidence is unimportant compared to this testimony. Four says that Eight has made good points, but how can they doubt the story of the woman. Six wonders if they could go home and finish their discussion in the morning, mentioning that his child is sick. Eight asks Two if he can see the clock without his glasses. Two says he can't see it clearly.
Three makes the dramatic statement that this testimony alone matters (though of course he says so because he wants the kid to be guilty and this evidence seems strong to him). Six’s statement reminds the audience of a world beyond the jury room, but now the other jurors ignore him when earlier they were all clamoring to leave. The jury is engaged in the evidence, engaged in their responsibility.
Themes
Reflection of American Society Theme Icon
Certainty and Doubt Theme Icon
Eight asks Two what he does when he wakes up at night and wants to know the time and Two says he puts on his glasses. Four says he lies in bed and waits for the clock to chime. Eight asks Two if he wears his glasses to bed. Eight points out that the woman who testified was wearing glasses. Eleven excitedly remembers that she wore bifocals. Four says it’s funny that he hadn't thought of that.
Eight uses his familiar rhetorical approach: he asks questions about glasses in order to get the jurors to agree before pointing out that the woman across the street wore glasses. Likewise, he got the jurors to agree on the movements of the train before pointing out that this would drown out a scream.
Themes
Certainty and Doubt Theme Icon
Eight says that he suspects the woman wouldn't have put on her glasses to glance out the window. The lights went out a second later, and she wouldn't have had time to put her glasses on. He says this woman may have thought she saw the kid in the act of killing, but she might have only seen a blur. Three wonders how Eight could know these ideas he proposes.
Eight proposes another theory about the woman’s actions, as he did with the old man downstairs. The woman didn’t put on her glasses and the old man didn’t get to the door in time. The jurors, despite Eight’s best attempts, can’t know if the kid is innocent. But they do doubt his guilt.
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Certainty and Doubt Theme Icon
Eight asks if anyone still thinks there is not a reasonable doubt. Ten says he thinks there is doubt. Three says that he still votes “guilty.” Four says he is convinced there is a reasonable doubt. Eight tells Three that he's alone. The Foreman says that there are 11 votes for “not guilty” and one for “guilty.”
Three maintains his “guilty” vote despite Ten and Four being persuaded. Eight’s reminder that Three is alone creates a parallel with the beginning of the play when Three tried to convince Eight to give up his solitary “not guilty” vote.
Themes
Justice Theme Icon
Certainty and Doubt Theme Icon
Stubbornness and Taking a Stand Theme Icon
Eight asks Three for his arguments in favor of the kid’s guilt. He says that they have time to keep discussing the case. Three appeals to Four, reminding him that he was the one with all the great arguments and he can't change his mind when a guilty man is going to be walking the streets. Four apologizes, acknowledging that he's rarely wrong, but that he was in this case.
Three crumbles without Four’s support because Eight asks for arguments, which was Four’s strong point. Four’s willingness to admit his error shows that changing one’s mind also requires strength of character. Stubbornness is different than taking a stand.
Themes
Certainty and Doubt Theme Icon
Stubbornness and Taking a Stand Theme Icon
Three says that the others won’t intimidate him and that it will be a hung jury. Eight says that there is nothing the rest of them can do about that. Nine comments that it takes a lot of courage to stand alone, which echoes his earlier admiration for Eight’s ability to do so, while showing that he doesn’t believe Three is capable of standing alone. Four says that with a hung jury there will be another trial, but, in the meantime, some of the jurors will bring these considerations to the defense lawyers, which will help the accused in the retrial.
Nine echoes his words from early in the play about the courage of standing alone, placing Three in contrast to Eight. Whereas Eight took a stand (a stand he was willing to sacrifice if everyone still disagreed with him during the second vote), Three is being stubborn. His refusal has no reasons behind it other than personal animosity. Eight’s was a refusal based on not yet being given the chance to see evidence. Three’s is a refusal to see that evidence. Despite
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Stubbornness and Taking a Stand Theme Icon
Three surrenders. The other jurors rise and the Foreman goes to the door. The Guard lets all the jurors out except Three and Eight. Eight says to Three that they're waiting on him. Three takes the switch knife and walks over to Eight. He looks at Eight and holds the knife, in proper underhanded switchblade style, in the direction of Eight’s belly. Eight says firmly, “not guilty.” Three hands the knife to Eight, handle first. Three says “not guilty.” Three and Eight exit the jury room.
Three’s legal surrender precedes a physical showdown with Eight that is based on personal aggression. That this showdown almost mirrors the alleged one between the kid and the kid’s father is no coincidence. Yet in this case Three gives up the knife. In this way Three both physically embodies his switched position from guilty to innocent (that the kid murdered his father to the admission that there was a reasonable doubt that he didn’t) and also embodies the way that the workings of the jury both exposed differences and strong feelings between jury members and then, as they worked through the evidence, overcame those differences as the jury did its duty.
Themes
Justice Theme Icon
Stubbornness and Taking a Stand Theme Icon