Last Man Standing

What goes on behind the doors of a jury room? How many discussions and arguments do twelve citizens have to go through to reach their decision? Most importantly, does justice always prevail? Reginald Rose examines these intriguing issues in his play Twelve Angry Men. In this story, one juror's actions reverses the verdict the jury has initially reached; one juror sticks to what he believes in and gives the defendant, a young boy, another chance. The juror is Juror Eight, a compassionate, resolute, and thoughtful man who fights for justice against all odds.

Juror Eight is an extremely compassionate person. Unlike most of the other jurors, he sympathizes with the young boy who is being accused of murder; he does not simply see the boy as a supposedly cold-blooded killer. Instead, Juror Eight says that the boy is a "tough, angry kid"(134) who has been "kicked around all his life"(134). Juror Eight displays his sympathy for the boy from the beginning of the juror's meeting: he is the only juror who votes "not guilty" in the first vote because he believes that maybe "[the jurors] owe him a few words"(134). Furthermore, driven by his strong empathy towards the boy, he tells Juror Three that "[the boy's life] is not a game"(134). Meanwhile, Juror Eight is compassionate toward the other jurors as well. When Juror Two hesitantly offers the jurors cough drops and no one takes any, Juror Eight takes one just to make him feel better. All of these actions show that Juror Eight has a strong ability to relate to people in need, and this quality plays a major part in determining the story's outcome.

Another important virtue that Juror Eight possesses is his firm resolution, his ability to hold his ground no matter what. From the start, Juror Eight holds opinions opposite to that of the majority, and he meets with sizable opposition from hotheaded adversaries such as Juror Three, Juror Eleven, and Juror Seven. Although he faces the other jurors' constant complaining and ranting, he grows ever more persistent in his pursuit of a reasonable doubt. Juror Eight questions the other jurors: "Do you mind if I [try]?"(146), as he insists on speculating further about the evidence. Despite Juror Three's threats, Juror Eight does not give in; he goes further to show the other jurors his points and his objectives. Because of Juror Eight's resolution, the outcome of the trial alters.

Another character trait that Juror Eight exhibits is his thoughtfulness. This quality is displayed when he is shown, at the beginning of the jury's discussions, staring out of the window, thinking, while the other jurors are already jumping to conclusions. He is always one who questions, one who does not believe easily, one who thinks. For example, he questions the credibility of the old man's testimony because he doesn't think the old man can get to his door at such short notice. Furthermore, Juror Eight notices what no one else does, such as the way the boy would use his knife if he did in fact commit the murder. In speculation, Juror Eight says, "[The testimony doesn't] sound right to me"(143). This very skeptical attitude and careful examination of facts helps him convince the other Jurors that the evidence provided is not sufficient to prove the defendant guilty.

Ultimately, Juror Eight is the man who causes justice to prevail. Without his virtues and efforts, a young boy could have died from twelve Angry men's carelessness. If Juror Eight had not stood up for his beliefs and fought for justice to be done, the trial would have resulted in an unfair verdict, one that had been reached not because of the facts, but because of prejudice, rashness, and cruelty. Therefore, Juror Eight is a symbol of justice, and what the justice department needs is more men like him: men who are compassionate, men who are resolute, and men who are thoughtful. Who knows, an innocent life may be saved.