Twelve Angry Men

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Themes and Colors
Reflection of American Society Theme Icon
Justice Theme Icon
Certainty and Doubt Theme Icon
Stubbornness and Taking a Stand Theme Icon
Prejudice vs. Sympathies Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Twelve Angry Men, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

The process of a trial by a jury of one’s peers is often considered to be both a reflection and core practice of American democratic society. This play runs with that idea, using the jury itself—as a group and as individuals—to reflect both the things that may unite Americans and their differences in background, prejudices, daily concerns, and ideals. The characters are a cross-section of professions, classes, ages, and immigrant status, whose differences inform how…

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As a play portraying the deliberations of a jury in a murder trial, Twelve Angry Men is naturally concerned with the idea of justice. Yet the play does not represent either the American criminal justice system or the abstract concept of justice as simple or clear. A simple representation of the criminal justice system might be named Twelve Serious Men, and portray those men as diligently, rationally, and single-mindedly going through the evidence until…

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The jury of Twelve Angry Men begins its deliberations with a vote of 11-1 in favor of guilty and ends 12-0 in favor of not guilty. From this, we might conclude that the jury started with false certainty and deliberated until they uncovered the certain truth. However, the jury is never able to establish whether or not the defendant is innocent. Rather than uncovering certainty, their deliberations uncover doubt—enough doubt that they do not feel…

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The conflict of the play is set in motion by Juror Eight’s lone “not guilty” vote at the start. He is stubborn in refusing to give the easy guilty verdict that a surface glance at the evidence, or conformity to the group’s sentiment, might suggest. By the end, the situation is neatly reversed: Juror Three remains steadfast as the lone “guilty” vote. Yet the play treats these two different solitary stands very differently. Though some…

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The play shows a variety of types of prejudice and the ways that it can affect those who hold those prejudices. At the same time, it also shows how the juror’s sympathies – usually considered a positive trait – can impact a person’s rationality or sense of justice. Most obviously, the play shows how the prejudices of the jurors affect their actions in the jury room. Racial or cultural prejudice plays a significant role in…

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