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Literary Analysis of Twelve Angry Men by Reginald Rose

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Literary devices are a foundation for any written work, they provide a connection from the writer to the reader through language. Details emphasized through literary devices enhance the conflict within the text and often serve to reference real life problems. In Reginald Rose’s screenplay Twelve Angry Men, the story of the jury’s life-or-death choice and underlining bias is told using imagery and metaphors.

Rose uses imagery by describing the jury room literally and atmospherically in order to illustrate the burden the twelve jurors have. Despite deciding upon a man’s life, several of the juror’s do not deem the case worthy of argument, seeing it as open and shut. “We don’t owe him a thing. He got a fair trial, didn’t he?” the disinterest during the discussion of the case defines the flippant attitudes of some of the jurors. It is clear the variety that Rose creates within the jury brings opposing opinions, further developing the conflict of the story. The personalities of the characters also present the difficulty of being open-minded and unbiased when dealing with the law. Juror 10 believes there is no reason he should be forced to spend his time in a small, uncomfortable room for someone he does not know personally.

Additionally, metaphors can extend upon a concept, creating a comparison between two subjects. Rose uses this literary device to touch upon real life situations by introducing them within the screenplay. One of the metaphors being the heat within the room, it symbolizes the tension between the jurors and is a twist on the saying “thing’s are getting heated in here,” without saying it point-blank. Another metaphor is the locked door of the jury room, symbolizing the way the jurors are physically and figuratively trapped, because of their own responsibilities and stubborn views. “You come in here with your heart bleeding all over the floor about slum kids and injustice and you make up all these wild stories, and you’ve got some old soft-hearted ladies listening to you. Well I’m sick of it! What’s the matter with you people? The kid is guilty!” Although most of the jurors are now invested in discussing the case Juror 3 is dead set upon his initial opinion and refuses to hear anything but. Juror 3 also uses a metaphor of his own, accusing Juror 8 of being overly sentimental. Rose points out that instead of sitting down and partaking in a serious and mannerly conversation, Juror 3 let’s his anger get the better of him and prolongs the final verdict because his personal opinions cloud his judgement, despite wanting to get it over with.

Literary devices build upon a writer’s story and ideas and allow for better understanding of meanings within the text. Reginald Rose uses imagery and metaphors to convey the prejudice and intensity revolved around the justice system. This writing technique improves the telling of a story by developing themes and concepts that the reader can analyze while also adding depth to literary pieces.

Works Cited

  • Rose, Reginald. Twelve Angry Men. Chicago Dramatic Publishing., 1957. 

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