Twelve Angry Men

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Ten Character Analysis

The most prejudiced and cruel character in the play, Ten is driven by a deep-seated “us versus them” complex concerning rich and poor. He speaks of the accused and people like him, from poor backgrounds, as “them.” He believes that none of “them” are trustworthy or good people. His bitterness and anger toward “them” spills over repeatedly in the play. At the end of the play, the other jurors move toward the window to express their disagreement with his cruelty by refusing to listen to him.

Ten Quotes in Twelve Angry Men

The Twelve Angry Men quotes below are all either spoken by Ten or refer to Ten. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Reflection of American Society Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the The Dramatic Publishing Company edition of Twelve Angry Men published in 1983.
Act 1 Quotes

Ten: It's tough to figure, isn't it? A kid kills his father. Bing! Just like that. Well, it's the element. They let the kids run wild. Maybe it serves ‘em right.

Related Characters: Ten (speaker), Four , Accused kid, Murdered father
Page Number: 13
Explanation and Analysis:

Early dialogue in the play helps to establish the diverse characters of the twelve jurors. These men differ in age, occupation, experience, background, religion, and (presumably) race. These differences result in a variety of types of prejudices and sympathies, and the play often reveals why certain characters think in certain ways and make certain assumptions. In this passage, juror Ten is already establishing his character and prejudices. Throughout the play, he shows a dislike of the group of people to whom the defendant belongs. It seems that the kid accused of killing his father is poor and grew up in an impoverished neighborhood. His race is never specified, but because Ten groups the accused with people different than himself (a group he belittles and stereotypes, assuming everyone from that group to be the same), it may be that the accused kid belongs to a minority racial group as well (but this all depends on individual staging of the play, of course). 

Ten's vitriolic remarks escalate over the course of the play and eventually alienate other jurors who are shocked at the amount of unfounded hatred he displays. In this early scene, however, Ten's remarks against a whole group of people go relatively unnoticed by the other jurors. All the jurors exhibit forms of prejudice. Although the word "prejudice" normally has a negative connotation, this play presents a connected idea of "sympathy." Juror Eight is inclined to like and feel sorry for the accused kid because of his impoverished background, while Ten is inclined to dislike him. Both are forms of bias, and though sympathy is a more virtuous kind of bias in the world outside the courtroom, for a jury, all bias, whether positive or not, is supposed to be removed. 

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Ten: I don't mind telling you this, mister. We don't owe the kid a thing. He got a fair trial, didn't he? You know what that trial cost? He's lucky he got it. Look, we're all grownups here. You're not going to tell us that we're supposed to believe him, knowing what he is. I've lived among 'em all my life. You can't believe a word they say. You know that.

Related Characters: Ten (speaker), Eight, Accused kid
Page Number: 16
Explanation and Analysis:

Ten presents a counter-point to Eight's sympathy for the accused kid. Just as Eight is more inclined to give time, consideration, and understanding to the kid because of his circumstances, Ten is less inclined to give these things. He sees the kid as representative of a group that he dislikes and distrusts. His prejudice against "them" leads him to conclude that "you can't believe a word they say." Who the "they" are exactly is unclear, but the ambiguity contributes to the timelessness and universality of the play. If this play was staged in a certain city at a certain time period, the audience might automatically assume the kid belongs to a group they know to be poor and unprivileged. In a different city, at a different time period, the audience might instinctively assign the kid to a different group. There have always been groups that are judged and discriminated against by the majority and the kid could belong to any of these. 

Interestingly, Ten says that he lived among this group all his life, yet he doesn't identify as one of them. Does Ten's personal exposure to this group lead to his particular vitriol against them? Or is this an exaggeration to explain why he feels justified making such claims? Perhaps suffering at the hands of specific people in Ten's life have made him the way that he is. Whatever the reason for his prejudice, it is clear that Ten's understanding of justice for the kid is different than Eight's. 

Nine: (to Ten very slowly). I don't know that. What a terrible thing for a man to believe! Since when is dishonesty a group characteristic? You have no monopoly on the truth.

Related Characters: Nine (speaker), Ten
Page Number: 16
Explanation and Analysis:

Ten's prejudiced statements against the group that the accused kid belongs to turn Nine against him. Nine sees Ten's statements as illogical because they assume that generalizations about groups of people are true. He questions Ten: "since when is dishonesty a group characteristic?" This remark points out the flaws in all prejudices rather than providing commentary on this specific example. The accused kid might be honest or dishonest. The audience never discovers this one way or the other in the course of the play. However, Nine makes the argument that to assume dishonesty of an individual because he is part of a certain group is flawed logic. Even if a stereotype exists for a reason, it is unfair to apply this stereotype to everyone in the group. There will always be many exceptions to the rule. 

Nine shows Ten that prejudices are flawed because they assume more certainty than one should rationally claim. Ten assumes that the kid is dishonest and, therefore, guilty. Nine says this is a horrible thing to believe because it leads to certainty without any foundation. Ten makes an assumption without evidence in a specific case. Yet, he is very certain about his assumption. Nine, on the other hand, feels it is worthwhile to always consider the exceptions to the rule and to avoid broad assumptions. He lives his life with more doubt and more questions because he does not make assumptions about groups of people as a whole. He looks (or tries to look) at people as individuals. 

Five: I've lived in a slum all my life.

Ten: Oh, now wait a second!

Five: I used to play in a back yard that was filled with garbage. Maybe it still smells on me.

Foreman: Now let's be reasonable. There's nothing personal.

[Five stands up.]

Five: There is something personal!

Related Characters: Foreman (speaker), Five (speaker), Ten (speaker)
Page Number: 21
Explanation and Analysis:

Juror Five, who is more youthful than the other jurors and who comes from a poor background, takes objection to Ten's ongoing prejudice against the group of people that includes the kid. This prejudice seems to be based on the group's low socio-economic class, which Ten sees as contributing to their violence toward others and their deceptive natures. Five realizes that Ten could be speaking about him, indirectly, because his background makes him a member of this group. Ten immediately backtracks and the Foreman tries to soothe the situation, but the Foreman's comment points out the problem with Ten's prejudice. The Foreman tries to soothe Five by saying that their is nothing personal in Ten's comments, meaning he is not directly attacking Five. But Five sees how his prejudice, although spoken generically about a group of people, directly impacts individual people, of which he could be considered one. 

This diversity within the jury shows the jury to be a "slice" of American life. Ten is pitted against the accused, but Five is sympathetic toward him because he sees the similarities in their lives. The jurors represent a variety of different viewpoints because of their different backgrounds. Because of this diversity, the jury, as a whole, is able to consider the accused kid and the evidence from a variety of different angles of prejudice and sympathy that, ideally, balance each other out in their decision-making process. 

Act 3 Quotes

Ten: …You know, they get drunk, and bang, someone’s lying in the gutter. Nobody’s blaming them. That’s how they are. You know what I mean? Violent!…Most of them, it’s like they have no feelings…They’re no good. There’s not one of ‘em who’s any good. We better watch out. Take it from me.

Related Characters: Ten (speaker), Accused kid, Murdered father
Page Number: 59
Explanation and Analysis:

Ten's vitriolic hatred of the group to which the accused kid belongs finally spills over into a cruel tirade in which it seems inconceivable to him that the other jurors are changing their minds and pardoning the kid. As Ten speaks, the jurors begin to leave the table and stand at the window. This is a silent protest against the blatant prejudice and hatred in Ten's words, as if the jurors are refusing to listen to and condone what he says. Ten seems to burn himself out with this speech and to realize that the other jurors do not agree with him, as he silently joins the majority for "not guilty" after this final tirade fails. Perhaps he realizes that he has gone too far and exposed a level of hatred that is shocking even to others who have their own sets of prejudices. 

Ten is unable to see even the slightest hope of redemption for the group to which the accused kid belongs. He says "there's not one of 'em who's any good." He refers to them as "violent" and sees this violence as part of their natures: "that's how they are." He sees a lifestyle (or race) as the source of this violence, a lifestyle of drinking and violence that perpetuates more drinking and violence. The shocking part of this speech is Ten's lack of sympathy for people stuck in a community plagued by violence. Instead, he cautions his fellow jurors to "watch out" for these types. 

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Ten Character Timeline in Twelve Angry Men

The timeline below shows where the character Ten appears in Twelve Angry Men. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1
Justice Theme Icon
Prejudice vs. Sympathies Theme Icon
...that jury room doors are locked, and he’d never thought about it before, while Juror Ten responds that it’s obvious the doors would be locked. (full context)
Certainty and Doubt Theme Icon
Prejudice vs. Sympathies Theme Icon
As the jurors keep talking, Juror Seven and Juror Ten agree that the boy’s story about losing his switchblade knife is ridiculous. Juror Ten explains... (full context)
Reflection of American Society Theme Icon
Prejudice vs. Sympathies Theme Icon
...Juror Eight, who is standing at the window not paying attention, to sit down. Juror Ten comments that the kid killed his father easily because “they” let their kids do whatever,... (full context)
Certainty and Doubt Theme Icon
Stubbornness and Taking a Stand Theme Icon
Prejudice vs. Sympathies Theme Icon
...Three threatens to go through all the ways the prosecution “proved” the boy’s guilt. Juror Ten brings up the “stupid story” about losing his switchblade again, all while Juror Four tries... (full context)
Justice Theme Icon
Certainty and Doubt Theme Icon
Prejudice vs. Sympathies Theme Icon
Juror Ten believes the kid got more than he deserves, a fair trial at the taxpayer’s expense.... (full context)
Certainty and Doubt Theme Icon
Prejudice vs. Sympathies Theme Icon
Juror Ten, speaking out of order, states his belief that the testimony of the woman across the... (full context)
Justice Theme Icon
Certainty and Doubt Theme Icon
...evidence, and slams it into the wall. There are gasps and a long silence. Juror Ten shouts, “who do you think you are?” The Foreman shouts for quiet. (full context)
Prejudice vs. Sympathies Theme Icon
Juror Eight asks the jurors whether they think the boy lied. Juror Ten and Juror Four both think it is a stupid question with an obvious answer. Juror... (full context)
Reflection of American Society Theme Icon
Justice Theme Icon
...Foreman. The Foreman counts the votes, and pauses at one that is “not guilty”. Juror Ten is immediately angry, while Juror Seven, snarling, demands to know who voted “not guilty.” He... (full context)
Act 2
Reflection of American Society Theme Icon
Justice Theme Icon
...should be protected because it was not protected in the country that he came from. Ten interrupts saying sarcastically that now they have to listen to Eleven talk about his country... (full context)
Reflection of American Society Theme Icon
Justice Theme Icon
Certainty and Doubt Theme Icon
...not easy to explain his doubt, and that it's only a feeling that he has. Ten complains that they're going to spend the night talking about feelings to the exclusion of... (full context)
Certainty and Doubt Theme Icon
Prejudice vs. Sympathies Theme Icon
...why he's changed his vote. Five says that he thinks there is a reasonable doubt. Ten says that Eight has talked Five into believing a fairytale. Five says maybe the old... (full context)
Certainty and Doubt Theme Icon
...the jurors where the old man's bedroom was in his apartment because he doesn't remember. Ten says that he thought Eight remembered everything. The Foreman requests the floor plan of the... (full context)
Reflection of American Society Theme Icon
Prejudice vs. Sympathies Theme Icon
Seven and Ten are not thrilled to look at the diagram of the apartments again. Four says that... (full context)
Certainty and Doubt Theme Icon
Prejudice vs. Sympathies Theme Icon
Ten says that Eight’s plan is insane and that he can't recreate the old man's movements.... (full context)
Certainty and Doubt Theme Icon
 Ten tells Eight to speed up to match the old man's pace. Eight speeds up slightly.... (full context)
Act 3
Certainty and Doubt Theme Icon
Prejudice vs. Sympathies Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Reflection of American Society Theme Icon
Prejudice vs. Sympathies Theme Icon
...“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... (full context)
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... (full context)
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.... (full context)
Justice Theme Icon
Certainty and Doubt Theme Icon
Stubbornness and Taking a Stand 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... (full context)