The film The Twelve Angry Men was directed by Sidney Lumet and produced by Henry Fonda, George Justin, and Reginald Rose in 1957. The film is set in a courtroom and stars twelve jurors who are tasked with rendering a guilty or not guilty verdict in a murder case involving a young boy as the accused. The film is centered around the issues of justice, persuasion, and mindset shifts. The art of convincing is essential in every form of debate, and in the film The Twelve Angry Men, Juror Eight employs this skill to persuade his fellow Jurors. Juror eight feels that before they can jump into conclusion and give a verdict of guilty that will lead to a death sentence, it was necessary to analyze the statements before them and find out the truth based on facts. Juror eight employs different persuasion skills to achieve his objective of convincing his peers and make them agree with his stand. Strong persuasive skills can change the attitude of a group of people by making them see sense and change their stand to support an idea they were opposing; for this reason, persuasion can save a life.
Juror eight knows the first step towards changing the mindset of the other eleven jurors is by earning their respect. Therefore he employs the use of a calm tone throughout his arguments, and this works for his advantage because achieves his objective of gaining respect and making the other jurors willing to listen to him. The tone of calmness can be seen in the instance when juror eight presented a switch knife that was identical to the one that stabbed the boy’s father making the testimony by the shopkeeper that the knife used in the murder was unique invalid. Juror ten is not happy with the actions of juror eight of trying to prove that the boy is innocent and he responds by shouting, “Yeah, what is this? Who do you think you are?” (Rose, 11). But juror eight does not yell back in response but instead he answered him calmly and continued with his explanation regarding why the testimony of the shopkeeper is not factual. This revelation by juror eight is vital in shaping the final verdict of the case. Because of the calmness and practical wisdom that juror eight exhibits he is respected.
When juror three sarcastically tells him, “Somebody’s in left field. (to No. 8) You think he’s not guilty?” he responds calmly while using volume control so that he could keep his emotions in balance (Rose, 4). Juror eight instead of being offended by the offensive sentiment of his opponents he used their anger for his advantage. During an argument between juror eight and other eleven jurors juror three losses control of his emotions and goes to attack juror eight and when his colleagues restrain him, he starts ranting, “Let me go. I’ll kill him! I’ll kill him!” (Rose, 20). He doesn’t take this attack personally however he uses the volume control to avoid losing his cool. Volume control is also seen in the instance when juror eight presented a switch knife that was identical to the one that stabbed the boy’s father. This action made the testimony by the shopkeeper that the knife used in the murder was unique invalid. Juror ten is not happy with the actions of juror eight of trying to prove that the boy is innocent and he responds by shouting, “Yeah, what is this? Who do you think you are?” (Rose, 9). But juror eight rather that yelling back in response he answered him calmly and continued with his explanation regarding why the testimony of the shopkeeper is not factual. In the first voting, all the jurors voted guilty except juror eight who voted not guilty and as a result juror three who believes that it is obvious the boy killed his father attacks him. In his statements juror three sarcastically tells juror eight that, “Somebody’s in left field (to No. 8). You think he’s not guilty?”(Rose, 3). However, regardless of his sarcastic statement juror eight remains calm and respond calmly while putting his emotions under control.
Juror eight also uses logos to persuade the other eleven jurors, and this can be evident in situations where he is basing his claims on relevant examples as well as reasons while supporting his stand. During the first voting, all other jurors voted guilty because they believed that the boy indeed committed the crime because to them the testimonies and evidence that was before them was adequate proof; however, juror eight stood alone and voted not guilty. He went ahead and backed his position by stating that, although “there were eleven votes for guilty. It’s not so easy for me to raise my hand and send a boy off to die without talking about it first” (Rose, 4). Also, the discussions that the main character started concerning the testimonies from the witnesses caused the other eleven jurors to start seeing the logic in his arguments. In the statement recorded by the old man, for example, juror eight discovered that it was not factual because the man claimed that he heard someone shouting, “I’m going to kill you,” and a second later the corpse fell (Rose, 14). In dismissing the validity of this claim juror, eight employs logos in the analysis of the old man’s testimony that stated that he heard the boy yelling at the time the EL train was passing and also the body fell one second after he heard the boy scream. After carefully analyzing this claim it turned out that they the old man’s testimony did not make sense and was not true. The other eleven jurors were able to see the logic in juror eights explanation, and this can be seen from their body language and from the fact that none of them argues after learning about the truth. This scenario indicates that juror eight is on the right track to making the other juror change their mind.
The techniques of hominem attack and kairos are also used by juror eight in dealing with the cruel comments and actions of people like juror three. Juror eight goes ahead to use the words of juror three to embarrass him by asking, “You don’t mean you’ll kill me, do you?” (Rose, 21). The actions of juror three provided the best chance for juror eight to drive his point home because while basing on his rants juror eight claims that even if it is true that the boy said “I will kill you” his sentiment cannot be used as valid evidence that he indeed committed murder. Juror eight claims that sometimes human beings can utter words carelessly under the influence of anger but in the real sense, they do not mean it. This instance is an excellent example of a situation where juror eight used a technique of kairos in his persuasion. Juror eight also makes use of hominem attack on the antagonist juror three by referring to him as a sadist in response to his statement when he said that the death of the boy could make him happy. At this point, the audience can realize that juror eight is gradually winning the jury due to his effective persuasion skills.
The techniques of ethos and pathos are also evident in the argument of juror eight. Juror eight employs the technique of pathos while trying to show the eleven jurors that a person who is an experienced knife fighter will know how to handle his knife better. In his statement, he tells his peers for a kid who is indeed a professional “then he couldn’t have made the kind of wound, which killed his father” (Rose, 25). On the other hand, ethos is used immediately after the first voting. After realizing that juror, eight is the only one who voted not guilty all the eleven jurors begin compelling him to change his decision and vote for guilty because there is no way he can change their mind. In response juror eight says, “I don’t want to change your mind. I want to talk for a while. Look, this boy’s been kicked around all his life. You know, living in a slum, his mother dead since he was nine. That’s not a very good head start. He’s a tough, angry kid. You know why slum kids get that way?” (Rose, 4). The reason why juror eight used ethos was to try and instill the sense of sympathy in his colleagues so that they can reconsider their stand and take their time to critically analyze the evidence before them before they can pass their verdict which will determine the fate of the boy’s life.
The skill of persuasion possessed by juror eight is fundamental in an argument, and it is because of this that he was able to convince the other eleven jurors and therefore saving the life of the boy. From the film, the audience can realize that rhetoric techniques are essential in persuasion and it is only through logic, careful analysis of evidence, patience, respect for human life and the use of volume control that justice can be obtained. The character of juror eight of standing for truth regardless of whether he has followers or not is a clear indication that for justice to be done those people responsible with delivering it must always base their judgments on facts and should not be guided by prejudice and stereotypes.
Rose Reginald. Twelve Angry Men. 1957 Pp 1-30