Twelve Angry Men

Switch knife Symbol Analysis

Switch knife Symbol Icon
The murder weapon which features at the heart of the legal case takes on symbolic meaning when Eight brings a matching weapon into the jury room to prove his point about reasonable doubt. When Eight sticks a matching knife in the wall, the murder weapon represents the certainty of the jurors that is quickly draining away. Initially, eleven out of twelve jurors felt convinced of the accused’s guilt. However, various aspects of the case, a few of these involving the switch knife, are called into question. Not only is the switch knife not as unique as the jurors assumed it to be, the stab wound, created by a man unfamiliar with handling a switch knife, raises questions. The knife, as a switchblade, is also linked to the poor community and impoverished circumstances in which the accused grew up. Five, who grew up in a similar environment, is able to identify the proper use of a switchblade, which links usage of these knives to the difficult circumstances of impoverished neighborhoods. The knife introduces doubt as well as sympathy for the accused. The switch knife is also used symbolically at the very end of the play during the final confrontation between Eight and Three. In the last moments of the play, Three seems to consider killing Eight before handing the knife to him, handle first. This act symbolizes a transfer of power, an active decision on Three’s part to relinquish his aggression and stubbornness. After handing off the knife, Three declares the accused “not guilty.”

Switch knife Quotes in Twelve Angry Men

The Twelve Angry Men quotes below all refer to the symbol of Switch knife. 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

Four: Take a look at that knife. It's a very strange knife. I've never seen one like it before in my life and neither had the storekeeper who sold it to him.

[Eight reaches casually into his pocket and withdraws an object. No one notices this. He stands up quietly.]

Four: Aren't you trying to make us accept a pretty incredible coincidence?

Eight: I'm not trying to make anyone accept it. I'm just saying it's possible.

Three: (shouting). And I'm saying it's not possible.

[Eight swiftly flicks open the blade of a switch knife and jams it into the table next to the first one. They are exactly alike. There are several gasps and everyone stares at the knife. There is a long silence.]

Related Characters: Three (speaker), Four (speaker), Eight (speaker)
Related Symbols: Switch knife
Page Number: 23-24
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 mo

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!
Act 3 Quotes

Five: …Anyone who’s ever used a switch knife would never have stabbed downward. You don’t handle a switch knife that way. You use it underhanded. [Illustrates.]
Eight: Then he couldn’t have made the kind of wound that killed his father.
Five: I suppose it’s conceivable that he could have made the wound, but it’s not likely, not if he had any experience with switch knives, and we know that the kid had a lot of experience with switch knives.

Related Characters: Five (speaker), Eight (speaker), Accused kid, Murdered father
Related Symbols: Switch knife
Page Number: 56
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.LoreLorem 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 nis

Eight: [to Three] They’re waiting. [Three sees that he is alone. He moves to table and pulls switch knife out of table and walks over to Eight with it. Three is holding knife in approved knife-fighter fashion. Three looks long and hard at juror Eight and weaves a bit from side to side as he holds knife with point of it in direction of Eight’s belly. Eight speaks quietly, firmly.] Not guilty. [Three turns knife around and Eight takes it by handle. Eight closes knife and puts it away.]

Three: Not guilty!

Related Characters: Three (speaker), Eight (speaker), Accused kid
Related Symbols: Switch knife
Page Number: 63
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

Switch knife Symbol Timeline in Twelve Angry Men

The timeline below shows where the symbol Switch knife appears in Twelve Angry Men. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1
Justice Theme Icon
Certainty and Doubt Theme Icon
Juror Three brings up one of the “answered” questions, the switch knife the boy bought. Juror Eight responds by asking to see the knife again—the Foreman looks... (full context)
Justice Theme Icon
Certainty and Doubt Theme Icon
Prejudice vs. Sympathies Theme Icon
As the guard goes to get the switch knife , Juror Four leads the jury in establishing the facts surrounding the knife. The boy... (full context)
Justice Theme Icon
Certainty and Doubt Theme Icon
Juror Four, now holding the switch knife that has been brought back into the room by the guard, challenges Juror Eight on... (full context)
Justice Theme Icon
Certainty and Doubt Theme Icon
Juror Eight reveals that he bought the switch knife he just slammed into the wall for 2 dollars at a junk shop near the... (full context)
Justice Theme Icon
Certainty and Doubt Theme Icon
Stubbornness and Taking a Stand Theme Icon
Prejudice vs. Sympathies Theme Icon
...shriek, the woman across the el tracks saw the murder occur, the boy had a switch knife like the murder weapon, the boy’s alibi is weak, and the boy did fight with... (full context)
Act 2
Reflection of American Society Theme Icon
Justice Theme Icon
Certainty and Doubt Theme Icon
The foreman removes the switch knife from the wall and returns it to the guard at the door. Four and Two... (full context)
Act 3
Stubbornness and Taking a Stand Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Certainty and Doubt Theme Icon
Prejudice vs. Sympathies Theme Icon
Five says that a switch knife is always used underhanded, and that anyone who has used such a knife before would... (full context)
Certainty and Doubt Theme Icon
Prejudice vs. Sympathies Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Reflection of American Society Theme Icon
Certainty and Doubt Theme Icon
Prejudice vs. Sympathies Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Justice Theme Icon
Stubbornness and Taking a Stand Theme Icon
...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... (full context)