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Integrity in “Twelve Angry Men”

‘Twelve Angry Men’ is a play, written in 1955 by Reginald Rose, that was later turned into a film. A young delinquent is being prosecuted for murdering his abusive father. The jury are to declare him guilty only if there is no reasonable doubt. 11 of the 12 men are unanimous in the decision that the boy is guilty, but one man feels that the evidence needs to be more carefully thought out before sending him to death. The twelve men sit in a hot room all day, with rising tempers and clashing personalities, and the juror who was once standing alone manages to convince all men to reverse their opinion. Throughout the play, the theme of integrity is developed, and Juror’s 3, 4 and 8 all contribute to the way that integrity is presented, through their actions and comments.

Society has certain expectations when it comes to the jury. The jury is expected to make impartial decisions, based on facts alone, without any prejudices, outside influences or personal issues influencing their decision. As the play unfolds, we see a struggle between good and evil, a struggle against prejudices, racism, and a struggle for compassion. Whilst Juror 4 is basing his votes on logic and facts, and is voting fairly, Juror 3 is too caught up in his own personal issues to be fair, and keep calm. Juror 8’s honourable efforts are highly commendable, as, not only did he manage to save a boy’s life, but he stood alone, and stood for what he believed in, to uphold his life values and virtues.
Juror 4 shows integrity and uprightness throughout the play, even though he is second last to switch his vote. This is possible because he bases his vote on the evidence given, without overshadowing it with prejudice, emotions, or other issues. He spells out the whole incidence, logically, using the evidence and facts that we’re provided in court, not getting caught up in any prejudices, but presenting the case clearly, logically and organised. He doesn’t think that this case is any reason to joke around, and makes this clear, saying, If you haven’t got anything to add besides jokes, I suggest you listen. He sticks to the facts, and gets on with business. He doesn’t think that a murder case is a place for jokes, and is willing to stand up to those who like to make a very serious circumstance into a joke. He furthers this point later on saying, Gentlemen, this case is based on a reasonable and logical progression of facts. Let’s keep it there. When he is directly asked by Juror 8 how he can be so sure that the boy is guilty, and have no reasonable doubt, he is the only one that is able to clearly answer him. He based his answer on logic and facts, not influenced by prejudices. He was able to look at the evidence given by the woman and see that this is ‘unshakeable testimony’. But, when the 9th juror discovers a reasonable doubt as to why this may be false, he changes his vote. This change of vote proves to us that he is judging fairly. He is able to prove why he believes the boy is guilty, but when he is faced with reasonable doubt, all that is required to vote not guilty, he changes his vote, as he is being fair and judging with integrity.

Juror 3’s actions, comments and attitude helped shape the way that the concept of integrity emerges throughout the play. He is a prime example of the opposite of integrity, especially in comparison to Juror 4 and Juror 8. Juror 3 makes himself known at the beginning of the play as a loud, obnoxious, rude and intimidating character. He believes the boy is guilty, but he is going against what is required of him as a juror, and basing his vote on his own personal issues with his son. He is comparing the boy to his own son, who he had a fight with, and hasn’t seen in two years. At the very end of the play, we see just how much he is basing his opinion on this, from the quote, That goddamn rotten kid. I know him. What they’re like… Jeez, I can feel that knife goin’ in. It is part of the jury’s job to fairly judge the accused, and we see a huge lack of integrity from the third juror, by basing his vote on prejudices and irrelevant circumstances. The third juror is also very quick to judge and accuse. At the beginning of the play, during the secret ballot, when someone changes their vote, he is the first to falsely tear into juror 5 for changing his vote, even though juror 9 actually changed his vote. He yells at him, accusing him of listening to the ‘golden voiced preacher’ who is supposedly twisting all the evidence. We see no mercy from him, and after the 8th juror convinces 3 more juror’s to change their vote, he thinks everyone is going crazy, saying, I mean, everybody’s heart is starting to bleed for this punk little kid like the President just declared it “Love Your Underprivileged Brother Week” or something.// At the end of Act 1, we see Juror 3 become furious with the other juror’s for how they are not taking the facts at face value, but looking further into them. He compares Juror 8 with a preacher, with his ‘sanctimonious talk and wild stories’ and accuses the other juror’s of being illogical and emotional, instead of sticking to the facts. This accusation is quite hypocritical, as throughout the whole play, we have watched Juror 3’s emotions twist and turn. As the play unfolds, we watch Juror 3’s values differ from what is expected, and fail meet our expectations of upright judging.

There were eleven votes for “guilty”. It’s not easy for me to raise my hand and send a boy off to die without talking about it first. Juror 8 does not know whether or not the boy is guilty or not, no one does, but, he doesn’t believe that the evidence is fool-proof enough to send the boy to death, and therefore, he shows integrity by voting Not Guilty, and standing alone, because he has a reasonable doubt. After the 9th Juror changes his vote in the secret ballot, he justifies his vote saying, Well, it’s not easy to stand alone against the ridicule of others. He gambled for support and I gave it to him. I respect his motives. The 9th juror respects what the 8th juror is doing, in trying to give the boy a chance. He sees integrity, in the 8th juror’s actions, and because of this, he changes his vote in the secret ballot. Juror 8 knows that a juror’s duty is to judge fairly and without outside influences, and that the boy must be declared guilty unless reasonable doubt is found. He is also aware that it’s very hard to keep personal prejudice out of a thing like this’, but he strives to act with honesty and integrity, and fairly judge the boy. He is against generalising the boys race, and declaring him guilty, simply because of his background, as juror 10 is eager to do, and he is willing to stand alone, in order to fight for what he believes in. He shows compassion for the boy, who has been ‘kicked around all his life’. Juror 8’s actions and comments help shape our understanding of integrity, and what it means in this context, throughout the play.

The concept of integrity emerges throughout the play through Juror 8’s actions and comments, as he shows us an example of honesty and uprightness, showing compassion, and stopping his judgement from becoming clouded by irrelevant factors. Juror 4’s example of integrity is different to Juror 9’s, because although he doesn’t show the same kind of compassion that Juror 8 does, he still gives the boy a fair trial, and he bases his vote on what is expected of him- the facts and evidence alone. On the other hand, Juror 3 is a perfect example of the opposite of all Juror 4 and 8 stand for. He lets his own personal issues cloud the facts, and Juror 8’s actions and comments help shape our understanding of integrity, and what it means in this context, throughout the play. He allows his own personality to colour the facts that were representing the case, and voted in a way that pleased himself, instead of fairly and un-influenced. These three Juror’s, and their different personalities and values, contributed to the way that integrity was shaped throughout the play, through their actions and comments, and the way they interacted with each other.