How does Reginald Rose establish and maintain a sense of tension in Twelve Angry Men Essay Example
How does Reginald Rose establish and maintain a sense of tension in Twelve Angry Men Essay Example

How does Reginald Rose establish and maintain a sense of tension in Twelve Angry Men Essay Example

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When examining the techniques used by Rose in "Twelve Angry Men", it is important to acknowledge the time period in which the play is set. Taking place in 1950s New York, a time when numerous individuals from diverse cultural backgrounds are immigrating to the country and settling in locations such as New York. Many of these migrants establish themselves in slums, leading to the emergence of racial tension among various communities within the country. As a result, it can be inferred that such social issues will likely be evident among some jurors, a notion that proves true as the play unfolds. Nevertheless, upon initially observing the jurors in the jury room, they exhibit mostly reserved and polite behavior towards one another.

The first thing that catches attention is the enclosed room. The room has harsh lightin


g and shabby decor, creating a very old and tired atmosphere. Additionally, there is a window that offers a view of New York in Croydon and a ticking clock (which will later represent the passing of time). These elements have the potential to escalate tensions and make people frustrated, especially given the stuffy and hot conditions. Adding to the discomfort is a non-functional fan. As for the jurors, little is known about them, resulting in a feeling of anonymity rather than tension.

The text reveals some information about the jurors. For example, juror 3 operates a messenger service called "The Beck and Call Company," while juror 4 is a broker. Beyond these details, little else is known about them. However, it appears that juror 7 is a passionate baseball fan, as he demonstrates the trajectory of a ball with a han

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gesture. Additionally, the 2nd juror appears to be timid and reserved in both speech and behavior. The tension begins to build on page 7 of act one when juror 8 casts a not guilty vote. Immediately, there are strong reactions from the other jurors, particularly from juror 10 who vocally expresses his opinion: "Boy-oh-boy! There's always one." Although not explicitly stated, it is likely that this vocal disagreement will continue throughout the debate.

In fact, as the play progresses, the jurors demonstrate different personalities. Juror 7 is laid-back and sarcastic, while Juror 4 is polite, well-spoken, and civil. However, an argument intended to undermine Juror 8's doubts about the boy's guilt becomes personal. On page 15, Juror 4 asserts that "slums are breeding grounds for criminals." Juror 10 adds derogatorily that people who "crawl outta those places" are truly trash. The 5th juror interrupts and reveals that he himself came from a slum and works in Harlem Hospital taking care of "trash" six nights a week.

Whilst consoling the 5th juror, juror 1 (the foreman) and juror 3 try to reassure him that nothing personal was intended. However, the damage has already been done as the 5th juror has been offended by juror 10's remarks. The stage directions indicate a bitter tension as jurors 5 and 10 engage in a heated argument, standing up from their seats. It is clear that these two jurors could clash in the future. As the play progresses, the audience witnesses fluctuating tension among the jurors. They become increasingly heated, leading them to remove their jackets and revealing sweat patches. This subtle effect builds anticipation for a sudden outburst that never actually

happens, leaving the audience hanging. For instance, juror 3 causes outcry and exasperation when he produces a knife identical to the murder weapon. However, the tension only remains as slight undertones rather than escalating into a full-blown confrontation.

The tension in the story rises on page 25 when the jurors take a second vote. Unexpectedly, someone else decides to vote not guilty, changing the situation drastically. Both the 10th and 7th jurors act self-righteously, while the 3rd juror becomes confrontational towards the 5th juror, saying "so you change your vote. If this isn't the most sickening..."

"Why don't you drop a quarter in this collection box?" This question is asked, revealing later that it was actually the 9th juror who changed his vote to guilty. However, the damage was already done, creating tension between jurors 3 and 5. Throughout the play, the tension remains subdued except for juror 10's sarcastic comment. As we continue reading, we start to identify allies and those who do not share similar views. Jurors 3, 7, and 10 emerge as the dominant voices, while jurors 4, 8, and 11 remain civil and clear-headed. Jurors 1, 2, and 12 blend into the background. As the play progresses, the dominant voices become more aggressive and irate, irritating the other jurors with their constant sarcasm and ignorance. However, on page 47, a pivotal moment seems to be unfolding.During the examination of the witness's account, the 3rd juror becomes angry and begins ranting falsely, which prompts the 8th juror to provoke him, saying: "Since we entered this room, you've been acting as a self-proclaimed defender of justice." The 8th juror further describes him as a sadist,

resulting in the 3rd juror aggressively lunging at him, necessitating the intervention of the 5th and 6th jurors to restrain him.

The 3rd juror shouts loudly, "I will kill him!" The 8th juror clarifies that he does not actually mean it, which is true. This moment in the play is crucial as it not only disproves the 3rd juror's previous theories but also demonstrates the potential behavior of anyone, including the 3rd juror. The tension reaches its peak as a result of this outburst. As the curtain falls and act 2 begins, there is a highly uncomfortable atmosphere as the jurors feel embarrassed by what they have just witnessed. Although the tension slightly eases, it is highly likely that the next eruption will be significant.

As the number of guilty votes increases, cracks begin to emerge, resulting in a tie of 6-6. Consequently, frustrated individuals react by making sarcastic remarks that reflect their exasperation and rudeness. Simultaneously, the weather outside undergoes a transformation, with a storm brewing and rain pouring down. The darkness of the scene further accentuates the notion that the argument has been ongoing for a considerable duration.

The heat that initially increased tension starts to cool down, and simultaneously, people's tempers and tensions begin to calm down. However, juror 10 continues to talk loudly and create tension. As the play progresses, there are not many signs of tension, even when the 3rd juror suggests voting for a hung jury to jurors 4 and 10. However, tension arises when the 7th juror is questioned by the 11th juror about his understanding of words. The 7th juror shows racial prejudices towards the 11th juror, which likely

influences his desire for the defendant to be found guilty. Ironically, the 7th juror idolizes a European baseball player named Modjewlski. The focus then shifts to a heated argument between the 8th and 4th jurors about the defendant's ability to remember details due to emotional stress. The 8th juror calmly questions the 4th juror about his activities on previous nights.

Despite lacking emotional strain, the 4th juror becomes flustered and even mops his sweating forehead (an unexpected behavior from someone who previously denied sweating). The tension among the jurors reveals their allegiances and differences. The tension increases when the 3rd juror mimics stabbing the 8th juror, shocking and possibly scaring the other jurors. Later on, juror 7 infuriates the 11th juror by changing his vote to not guilty. This prompts the 11th juror to confront juror 7, who defends his decision without any justification.
1st juror: (crossing to the 7th juror): He's right.

The 11th juror questions the 7th juror's change of vote, criticizing him for initially voting guilty and now changing his vote due to frustration with the discussions. The 11th juror suggests that the reason for the change is simply because of some baseball tickets he wants to use.

The 11th juror departs, eyeing him disdainfully. However, shortly thereafter, we witness a scene that marks a crucial moment in this play. Commencing an extensive, racist diatribe, the 10th juror employs highly derogatory language not only against the slum dwellers but also the jurors themselves, labeling them as "ignorant bastards." This racist rant from the 10th juror is so offensive that the appalled jurors turn away from him, disregarding his hateful words. It is only when

the 4th juror instructs him to keep his "filthy mouth" closed that he finally acquiesces, causing the other jurors to relax in their seats. Following this incident, the jurors, visibly uncomfortable, proceed with their deliberation.

During the debates, flaws in the evidence against the defendant are revealed and the majority opinion becomes 11-1 in favor of not guilty. Only juror 3 persists in being defiant. When asked to present his arguments, he desperately clings to invalid points, repeating claims that have already been debunked. It is evident by the end of the play that juror 3's bitterness stems from his broken relationship with his estranged son.

When the 8th and 4th jurors emphasize that the boy is not his son and should be spared, the 3rd juror ultimately votes not guilty. Rose effectively maintains tension in Twelve Angry Men by gradually building it up and ensuring that it erupts with intense emotions. He continues to fluctuate the tension even after this explosion. The play's ending suggests that it aims to reveal our true nature as men and how we often handle situations in our own, sometimes self-centered manner.

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