Twelve Angry Men

The old man downstairs Character Analysis

A weak elderly man who offers a significant piece of testimony in court. The man walks with two canes. Juror Nine proposes that the old man testifies because he needs to be seen and heard, having been overlooked and lonely for too long. The jurors ultimately come to believe that the old man’s testimony of hearing the kid shout, “I’ll kill you!” and then seeing the kid fleeing down the stairs is questionable because of how long it would have taken him to move to the door of his apartment, plus the deafening sounds of a passing train.

The old man downstairs Quotes in Twelve Angry Men

The Twelve Angry Men quotes below are all either spoken by The old man downstairs or refer to The old man downstairs. 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 2 Quotes

Eight: An el train takes ten seconds to pass a given point, or two seconds per car. That el had been going by the old man's window for at least six seconds and maybe more, before the body fell, according to the woman. The old man would have had to hear the boy say, "I'm going to kill you," while the front of the el was roaring past his nose. It's not possible that he could have heard it.

Related Characters: Eight (speaker), The old man downstairs, The woman across the street
Page Number: 33
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Unlock explanations and citation info for this and every other Twelve Angry Men quote.

Plus so much more...

Get LitCharts A+
Already a LitCharts A+ member? Sign in!

Nine: It's just that I looked at him for a very long time. The seam of his jacket was split under the arm. Did you notice that? He was a very old man with a torn jacket, and he carried two canes. I think I know him better than anyone here. This is a quiet, frightened, insignificant man who has been nothing all his life, who has never had recognition—his name in the newspapers. Nobody knows him after seventy-five years. That's a very sad thing. A man like this needs to be recognized. To be questioned, and listened to, and quoted just once. This is very important.

Twelve: And you're trying to tell us he lied about a thing like this just so that he could be important?

Nine: No. He wouldn't really lie. But perhaps he'd make himself believe that he heard those words and recognized the boy's face.

Related Characters: Nine (speaker), The old man downstairs
Page Number: 33-34
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Three: (angrily). He's an old man. You saw him. Half the time he was confused. How could he be positive about anything? [Looks around sheepishly, unable to cover up his blunder.]

Related Characters: Three (speaker), The old man downstairs
Page Number: 38
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Get the entire Twelve Angry Men LitChart as a printable PDF.
Twelve angry men.pdf.medium

The old man downstairs Character Timeline in Twelve Angry Men

The timeline below shows where the character The old man downstairs appears in Twelve Angry Men. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 2
Justice Theme Icon
Certainty and Doubt Theme Icon
Three says the old man heard the kid yell at his father, “I'm going to kill you,” and then heard... (full context)
Justice Theme Icon
Certainty and Doubt Theme Icon
...that the sound as a train passes is incredibly loud. Eight then points out that the old man swore he heard the kid’s scream and the body fall. The woman across the street... (full context)
Certainty and Doubt Theme Icon
Prejudice vs. Sympathies Theme Icon
Eight says it's not possible that the old man could have heard what he claims to have heard. Two agrees and Three asks whether... (full context)
Certainty and Doubt Theme Icon
Nine says that the old man wouldn't lie, but he might make himself believe something that wasn't actually true. Nine says... (full context)
Reflection of American Society Theme Icon
Certainty and Doubt Theme Icon
Stubbornness and Taking a Stand Theme Icon
...drop and Eight accepts one. Then he raises another point. He says that even if the old man could have heard the kid yell, “I'm going to kill you,” the boy probably wasn't... (full context)
Reflection of American Society Theme Icon
Justice Theme Icon
Certainty and Doubt Theme Icon
...think of everything. Seven, exasperated, asks whether, because of Eight, they are supposed to believe the old man didn't get up and run to the door to see the kid after the murder?... (full context)
Certainty and Doubt Theme Icon
Eight asks the jurors where the old man 's bedroom was in his apartment because he doesn't remember. Ten says that he thought... (full context)
Certainty and Doubt Theme Icon
Stubbornness and Taking a Stand Theme Icon
Prejudice vs. Sympathies Theme Icon
Eight wonders whether an old man who has had two strokes in the past three years and who uses a pair... (full context)
Certainty and Doubt Theme Icon
...bed to the bedroom door plus the length of the hallway. Eleven points out that the old man had to be helped into the witness chair and could only move very slowly. Nine... (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. Eight asks to have the chance to try because, according to Ten, it... (full context)
Certainty and Doubt Theme Icon
Ten tells Eight to speed up to match the old man 's pace. Eight speeds up slightly. He devotes time to retrieving invisible canes and opening... (full context)
Act 3
Reflection of American Society Theme Icon
Certainty and Doubt Theme Icon
Stubbornness and Taking a Stand Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Certainty and Doubt Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Justice Theme Icon
Certainty and Doubt Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Certainty and Doubt Theme Icon
...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,... (full context)
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... (full context)
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,... (full context)