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Home » Twelve Angry Men (1950 Movie): Essay Example

Twelve Angry Men (1950 Movie): Essay Example

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Twelve Angry Men movie is a great example of how people have different perceptions, biases, prejudices, and understanding of what is right and what is wrong. This movie shows that, in many cases, people can be driven by various motives influencing their decision-making, and these motives have a huge impact on the ability to judge and think objectively and effectively. One of the main unique features of this movie is that it is all about communication; however, the context makes communication rather aggressive and intense.

Before discussing various conflicts, groupthink, and critical thinking shown in this movie, it is essential to describe how the context causes all these things. It should be noted that people who are deciding whether a person should be executed or not are in a quite stressful situation. It is quite difficult to make a decision, especially when someone’s life depends on this decision. Moreover, there are also some factors that add huge pressure to the situation. The first factor is the extremely hot weather. Obviously, it is rather difficult to think when people have a huge discomfort caused by a high temperature. Therefore, hot weather makes members of the jury make a decision as fast as possible, which negatively contributes to their objectivity. Secondly, almost all members of the jury smoked cigarettes. The smoke combined with the hot weather makes room for literary airless. Finally, jury members didn’t want to spend their time because they had various things to do. For instance, one member wanted to go to the baseball game. All these aspects negatively contribute to the rational thinking of jury members and change their perception of arguments and facts they know.

As for the conflicts, they can be found almost in every minute of this movie, and in most cases, these are intragroup conflicts. However, there are also interpersonal and intrapersonal conflicts. The first and the most important conflict starts when the first voting takes place. Though 11 jury members voted that a young man was guilty, Henry Fonda’s character voted to acquit this young man. This conflict can be considered an intragroup conflict, and in fact, this initial conflict is the reason why other conflicts occurred later. In the context of the jury, there is only one way to solve a such intragroup conflict, and this way is to vote unanimously. Therefore, in the beginning, jury members try to solve this conflict by persuading Henry Fonda’s member to change his vote. However, at the end of this movie, the conflict is resolved because all jury members acquit the young man. This conflict is managed in a quite complex way throughout the whole movie. The main method used to solve this conflict is critical thinking. Additionally, jury members used persuasion to influence each other’s decisions.

The second important conflict occurs when one jury member claims that children who live in slums are potentially dangerous to society and that they often become criminals. The other jury member, Ed Begley’s character, supports this claim and agrees that such children are “trash.” However, the other jury member claims that he lived in slums when he was a child, and now he has become a valuable member of society. This conflict can be considered interpersonal because two jury members have certain biases affecting their thinking and resulting in conflict with a person who lives in slums. This conflict continues during the secret voting. When one jury member secretly voted that the young man is not guilty of killing his father, Lee J. Cobb’s character starts shouting at the man who lives in slums and starts accusing him of changing the vote. However, the man who lived in the slums didn’t change his vote. This causes another interpersonal conflict and makes both these characters act quite aggressively and emotionally. As it can be seen, this conflict was caused by the bias of Lee J. Cobb’s and Ed Begley’s characters and is based on his negative stereotypes regarding people living in bad neighborhoods. This conflict is resolved almost only at the end of the movie when Ed Begley’s character starts shouting that everything discussed throughout the movie doesn’t matter because it is natural for such people living in slums to drink, lie, and kill others. However, other group members started to understand that everything said by this person was absolutely wrong from moral and rational standpoints. Therefore, Ed Begley’s character stops talking and sits alone. Even Lee J. Cobb’s character didn’t support him, which showed that the group understood that labeling people is irrational and negatively affects their group’s decision-making process.

Another interesting and quite important conflict occurs when Jack Warden’s character changes his decision because he doesn’t want to be late for the baseball game. When this jury member changes his mind to “not guilty” and claims that all the discussion is “getting nowhere.” It irritates another jury member who claims that it is wrong to change the vote because of the baseball game, and he asks Jack Warden’s character to explain why did he change his vote. However, Jack Warden’s character is unable to provide a reasonable explanation. Hence this interpersonal conflict remains unresolved.

It is also needed to mention the intrapersonal conflict experienced by Lee J. Cobb’s character. He has quite complicated relations with his son. Therefore, he experiences the effect of transference, meaning that the accused young boy reminds Lee J. Cobb’s character of his son. As a result, from the very beginning, he doesn’t want to listen to any arguments provided by Henry Fonda’s character. Every time someone changes the decision to “not guilty,” this character becomes aggressive and dissatisfied, which in turn leads both to interpersonal and intragroup conflicts. It is not a surprise that this character is the last one who changes his mind and agrees that the young boy is not guilty. At the end of this movie, Lee J Cobb’s character tears a photo of him and his son apart and starts crying. This can be considered the culmination moment because this character experiences catharsis, which makes him release strong emotions and change his vote. As a result of catharsis, the intrapersonal conflict resolves, which finally leads to the resolution of intragroup conflict.

As for critical thinking, the main character who encourages others to think critically is Henry Fonda’s character. Firstly, he shows a knife identical to the knife that was used as a murder weapon. However, some jury members claim that this proves nothing. In the beginning, jury members claimed that this knife was unique, which can be considered a fallacy. After it was proven that this knife is not unique, Lee J. Cobb’s character started to claim that “it doesn’t prove anything.” Additionally, he appealed to probability by claiming that someone who killed a young boy with the same knife is “possible but not probable.” Further, Henry Fonda’s character claimed that the old man, who was the witness, couldn’t hear that someone was creaming or at least couldn’t be absolutely sure that the person who was screaming “I will kill you” was the accused young boy, because of the train passing by. One of the jury members explained that the old man just wanted to get some attention. Therefore, he lied. Ed Begley’s character considered this explanation as “stupid” and claimed that the conclusion based on this explanation is also stupid. Apparently, this is an argument from fallacy. Obviously, if the argument is false, it doesn’t mean that conclusion is false either. Hence, it is possible that the old man didn’t want to get any attention, but he just misheard the voice, which is also possible. However, because of this fallacy, no one has taken this argument seriously in the beginning. Another important example of critical thinking is when jury members tried to check whether the accused boy could stab his father with a knife from up to down. Lee J. Cobb’s character tried to prove that it is possible to stab a person from up to down even if there is a difference in height. This can also be considered a fallacy because Lee J. Cobb’s character didn’t know how to stab anyone with a knife. Hence the jury member who lived in slums during his childhood criticized this. Without this person on the jury, there is a high chance that other jury members would believe Lee J. Cobb’s character.

Groupthink can also be noticed almost all the time. From the very beginning, 11 jury members are ready to convict the accused man and have a negative attitude towards the only man who is against making the decision so fast. When groupthink occurs, the group is always trying to suppress individualism; therefore, opinions that are different from the group’s opinion are criticized. One of the brightest examples showing that groupthink is present is the phrase said by one of the jury members, “It’s hard to put into words, I just think he is guilty.” Another example indicating that some of the jury members were affected by groupthink is at the end of the movie when Jack Warden’s character changed his vote to “not guilty” and explains it by claiming, “I don’t think he is guilty” and this character couldn’t explain his decision with any arguments or facts. The jurors tried to overcome these negative tendencies of groupthink by allowing each other to provide arguments and counterarguments. Critical thinking was the main strategy to address groupthink.

In general, the decision-making of the jury was rather poor. The jurors didn’t use critical thinking when they heard information in the court. Hence almost all of them were ready to convict the young boy. In addition, some jurors were not interested in the discussion at all. Groupthink, biases, prejudices, stereotyping, and fallacies were present; therefore objectivity of the jury was rather low. The decision-making process could be improved by ensuring that there are no negative factors such as an extremely high temperature. Additionally, people who were interested in making a decision as fast as possible should be excluded from the jury. It would also be great if the jury was provided with information regarding various fallacies and how to avoid them. Finally, it can be recommended to ensure that all jury members feel safe and others won’t pressure them by shouting, touching, or threatening them.

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