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Analysis of “12 Angry Men”

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    In the movie 12 Angry Men, (1957), twelve white men from different socioeconomic backgrounds with diverse personal prejudices, beliefs and personalities are brought together in a small jury room on a hot summer day. The jurors are forced to debate evidence presented in a case and carry out the task of deliberating on the guilt or innocence of a teenager accused of killing his father with a switchblade. This film dramatically illustrates how a group dynamic can influence what should be its members’ fair decision-making process. The members of the jury group must come to a unanimous and just verdict.

    After the group adjourns into the jury room to deliberate, a vote is taken. At this point the other group members find out that one juror, played by Henry Fonda, (Juror 8) thinks that the accused teenager is not guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. As a result, conflicts arise as each juror’s unique understanding of the case along with his biases and stereotypes are revealed. The purpose of this paper is to analyze the group’s development and member roles as they evolve from a mostly “guilty” decision at the start of deliberations to a unanimously “not guilty” decision at the close of the movie.

    The dynamics of this jury’s verdict as the movie unfolds will be analyzed according to Tuckman’s theory, Bion’s theory of basic assumptions and Yalom’s and Leczec’s group norms, process and content. Three theories will be used because one model alone would not sufficiently explain the complex interactions and behaviors displayed by the jury members as they commence work in a group. Group Role Development In examining a group of any kind, it is important to examine the roles that form within that group.

    In 12 Angry Men, clear roles develop among the different jurors. Roles are specialized functions that serve to manage emotions and complete the work task (Rutan,Stone &Shay,2007). Some of the functional roles taken up by the jurors in the film include information-seeker, tension-releaser, feeling-expressor, socializer/extrovert, intellectualizer, superior and aggressor (McRae&Short,2010). The main roles in the film revolve around the dissenter, juror 8 (Fonda) who ultimately fills the role of group leader, is followers (Jurors 2,5,6,9 and11 who are perceptive), the rebel Juror 3 and his followers, Juror 1,4,7 and 10 who are weak and conciliatory and the mediators (alternating Jurors7, 11 and 2)(McRae&Short,2010). These roles emerge as the group struggles with its task and the need to defend against and manage their anxiety (McRae&Short,2010). Each group member responds to Fonda’s role as leader differently: some reject him, others identify with him, some compete with him and yet other jurors empathize with him.

    In this scenario, the leadership role is actually a function and not a permanent position (Rutan,Stone &Shay,2007). Over the course of the movie, as the jurors are reluctantly forced to re-examine their thoughts and feelings about the case, many different, temporary leaders emerge. Fonda is able to secure his position in the group as a powerful leader because he is able to influence and gain strong support from the other members who follow him until ultimately, they are all able to see the evidence for themselves. Fonda represents the epitome of an effective leader.

    He is tall, handsome, confident, calm, well spoken, logical, caring, patient and brave (McRae & Short,2010). But, most importantly, his devoted orientation to the task creates doubt in his fellow jurors, which enables him to persuade the other jurors to change their original verdicts of guilty to not guilty after a thorough, objective examination of the details of the case (McRae&Short,2010). Tuckman’s Theory of Group Development Bruce Tuckman’s model of group development offers a five-step model of how groups form, develop and change over time.

    According to Tuckman, these stages occur in order and are identified as norming, storming, forming, performing and adjourning (Tuckman,1965). It is instructive to apply this theory to the movie to explain the group’s dynamics. In the movie, all five stages can be identified to some extent. Some stages are brief and do not appear to proceed clearly from one stage to the next, rather they occur simultaneously. For example, the forming, performing and adjourning stages are briefly touched on and storming, norming and performing seem to overlap at times.

    The group dynamic in the movie is more complex than Tuckman’s model suggests. In Tuckman’s forming stage, group members get to know one another, make first impressions and get oriented to their task (McRae&Short,2010,Tuckman,1965). New group members often feel anxiety and are insecure at this stage because they are working to create a group that has structure and a leader (McRae&Short,2010, Yalom&Lesecz,2005). Furthermore, as individuals, they are seeking acceptance in the group and are curious to work together in their new roles as group members (Yalom&Leszcz,2005).

    For the most part, jurors are initially polite but some are indifferent to the evidence of the case, perhaps as a means to get along with the others and avoid conflict (Yalom&Lesecz,2005). In this new situation, members are concerned with trust and safety, testing interpersonal boundaries and establishing dependency on a group leader (McRae&Short, 2010,Tuckman,1965). As the film opens, it is likely that the group has mostly already formed. The final phase of the forming stage is best illustrated in the brief opening scene right after the jurors have been instructed by the judge to make a unanimous vote on the boy’s guilt or innocence.

    As jurors move from the jury box to the jury room, they makes some informal small talk amongst themselves about the case which reveals their thoughts and biases about the teenager standing trial. Every juror enters the jury room and the group with their own specific personal experiences, needs and conflicts (Rutan,Stone &Shay,2007). For example, some jurors talk about how the case is exciting and that the boy is clearly guilty of murdering his father. Other jurors talk about how hot and uncomfortable the room is or how they would like deliberations to be over quickly (Juror 7 is concerned that will miss a ballgame).

    Another juror is standing by the window alone, preoccupied by his thoughts. The forming stage passes once official deliberations proceed and the jurors’ familiarity with each other increases as a result of listening to each defend his argument. As group members become further acquainted and determine rules such as how they will discuss the case, the group immediately moves on to the storming stage of group development and stays in the storming phase for the majority of the movie. In the storming stage, there is usually interpersonal conflict and hostility present among the group members as they try to get to work (Rutan,Stone &Shay,2007).

    The conflict arises as a result of some jurors’ need to focus on gaining “dominance, control and power (p. 314)” over the group (Yalom &Leszcz,2005). The jurors spend a lot of their time reacting to being a part of the group as each tries to balance his own identity while still belonging to the group (Rutan,Stone &Shay,2007). Any norms established by jurors in the forming stage are tested and changed during storming (Rutan,Stone &Shay,2007). The jurors are polarized into two sides regarding the case and resist the task by responding in intensely negative and emotional ways.

    Because emotions run high, jurors have difficulty thinking clearly, rationally and independently (Rutan,Stone &Shay,2007). Group members are incorrectly perceived as rude, stubborn, controlling, competitive, dependent, impatient, intolerant, ignorant, “bleeding liberal heart” and demanding. Group members experience anger, silence, confusion, sadness and frustration. This stage is characterized by insults, outbursts and indifference and/or arguments toward jurors who attempt to critically review evidence.

    An excellent example in the movie is the scene immediately after the preliminary vote where Fonda casts the only not guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt” vote. The other jurors are shocked that Fonda does not see that the boy is obviously guilty. Specifically, juror 10 cannot believe what he has seen or heard, shakes his head in frustration and anger (Dirks,2010). In fact, juror 10 accuses juror 8 of intentionally trying to hang the jury (Dirks,2010). Another example of storming occurs when juror 7, convinced of the accused boy’s guilt, says that Fonda could talk for one hundred years and he (7) would still not change his mind (Dirks, 2010).

    After scenes that depict storming, jurors are starting to think differently and independently as they address previously unrecognized biases. For example, juror 10 reveals his racial prejudices when he tells the other members that the “facts have been heard” and that he has “lived among them all his life; they are all liars. ” The elderly juror, 9, responds by stating that, “only an ignorant man would believe that” and Fonda says to the angry, racist juror, “Let me ask you something: you don’t believe the boy’s story, but you believe the woman’s story: she’s one of them too. Storming intensifies as the jurors become more comfortable and familiar with each other as they brainstorm alternative situations and argue their unique interpretations of what they see as the facts of the case. One by one, they eventually are able to resolve their conflicts and learn to accept each other and Fonda (8) as the group’s emerging leader. Over the course of the film, as storming ebbs and flows, the group creates rules that enable it to function as a more cohesive unit. The third stage of group development according to Tuckman is norming.

    In the norming stage, conflict among the group members decreases, rules are established, the group overcomes resistance and functions as a cohesive unit in order to complete a task (McRae&Short,2010,). Group members begin to take on productive roles, agree on how to go about achieving their goal and share in the responsibility of decision-making (Rutan,Stone &Shay,2007). Group members become used to each other and begin to trust each other (Yalom&Leszcz,2005). They have logical points to argue and are more comfortable listening to and trying to respect one another’s views (Yalom&Leszcz,2005).

    They begin to talk and reveal more about their personal opinions, circumstances and backgrounds (Tuckman,1965). They are no longer obsessed with belonging to the group or competing to have their needs met. It is during this stage of functioning that more jurors are in favor of not convicting the defendant. One example of norm setting involves the jurors agreeing to frequent “votes” by a show of hands as a way to show agreement after exploring the credibility of the testimony. Another good example of norming in the film is depicted in the scene where jurors turn their back on juror 10.

    This showed that they would not tolerate his racist rant and that he is both unsuitable and undesirable as a leader. Other examples of norming within the group occur when jurors who believe the boy is guilty make a racist remark that stereotypes his ethnic background and upbringing. When this happens, the other jurors become angry and want to discuss the facts of the case. Another norm involves the times when juror 2 offers other jurors cough drops during an argument. Once norms are established and agreed upon by the group, members are able to move to the fourth stage-performing.

    In the performing stage, the group dynamic has fully evolved. The jurors have shared their different reasons and prejudices for voting guilty or not guilty. They are finally ready to work on the assigned objective. This stage is normally reached after group members have learned to trust each other, can tolerate conflict and have agreed to work together (McRae&Short,2010). They are now able to work cooperatively and efficiently on the desired goal and discuss the details of the case in an open-minded and flexible way (McRae&Short,2010).

    For example, toward the end of the movie, in the scene regarding the new evidence surrounding the old women’s vision all but one juror is convinced that the testimony of the witness might have been inaccurate. After the last vote, juror 3, the angry bully, was alone in his guilty vote. After a contentious confrontation with juror 8, even he was persuaded to realize that he was not thinking about the case in an objective manner. According to Tuckman’s theory, performing took place only briefly at the end of this movie once the group’s goal of a unanimous “not guilty” vote was achieved.

    The fifth and final stage of adjourning occurs once a group has completed its assigned task (McRae&Short,2010). In the film, adjourning occurred when the jury completed their objective, parted from the jury room and went their separate ways. Bion’s Theory of Group Development: Work and Basic Assumption Groups Wilfred Bion’s theory of group development is based on psychoanalytic theory and states that in order to have a successful group, work goals need to be completed and members’ emotional needs must be satisfied (McRae&Short,2010, Rioch,1975).

    Group members will create a structure that is designed to complete assigned goals and tasks while meeting emotional needs by defending against their unconscious anxiety (McRae&Short,2010). According to Bion (as cited in Rioch,1975 p. 23), there are two groups that function within every one group. The first is the “work group” which is primarily concerned with pursuing and completing tasks in a logical manner. However, strong emotions can impede the ability of a work group to function effectively (McRae & Short,2010). The second group is the “basic assumption group. Basic assumptions arise spontaneously and are unconscious defenses against anxiety and are present to respond to an individual member’s emotional needs (McRae& Short,2010,Rutan,Stone &Shay,2007,Rioch,1975). The three types of basic assumption groups described by Bion and observed in the movie are basic assumption dependency (baD), basic assumption fight or flight (baF/F) and basic assumption pairing (baP). Each basic assumption, when present, causes conflict among group members. Basic assumptions are outlined with examples from the film in the following section. In the movie, the jury members unconsciously experience anxiety that nterferes with the group’s ability to do rational work. This anxiety is in the form of unconscious psychological obstacles unrelated to the task of deliberating on the verdict. These barriers result in an inability of the work group to be effective. In order for baD to be present, the group members’ thoughts, feelings and actions are geared toward finding a leader for the group’s structure who can magically find a solution to their problem (Schramm,2010). In the film, juror 1 (the controlling foreman) quickly tries to establish his authority in the group as a leader but is unsuccessful.

    After the preliminary vote led by juror 1, five jurors quickly raised their hands for a guilty vote while the other members looked around the room first and slowly decided to join the majority vote (most likely not to feel left out). The group members are unconsciously experiencing the emotional state of baD because they would rather look to someone to lead them to a quick and simple decision regarding a verdict rather than logically analyze every detail of the testimony and confront their uncomfortable anxieties and emotions surrounding the case (Rioch,1975).

    They act “as if ” the foreman is a leader that can solve all their troubles (Rioch,1975,p. 24). Fonda’s dissenting vote at the outset of deliberations revealed the foreman as an unsuitable leader. As the group progresses and the foreman is unable to meet their expectations, eliciting only “disappointment and hostility”, he is replaced with Fonda as the group seeks a new leader who they can depend on to guide their task in a rational way (Rioch,1975,p. 25). The baF/F exists when the group behaves “as if” its purpose is to fight or flight against the leader in order to protect itself (Rioch,1975).

    In the movie there are many exemplary scenes where fight and flight are present. Most salient is the scene in which Fonda suggests new, alternative ways of looking at the facts. The other jurors respond by playing games, doodling, interrupting him and demanding to know why what they are doing is even important. In other parts of the movie, group members engage in small talk, crack jokes, light cigarettes and walk around the jury room. Through these actions, group members behave as if they can “gain security and preserve the group through battle or escape”(Rutan,Stone &Shay,2007,p. 8). The group “fights” by refusing to re-examine the facts of the case and demonstrate “flight” from the task by walking around, wanting to be somewhere else and taking frequent restroom breaks. BaP occurs when group members rely on a pair within the group to solve their difficult task of sifting through the case details. For example, hope is created between the pairing of rival jurors 3 and 8 “as if” their pairing will produce a ”Messiah”(Rioch,1975,p. 27).

    The jurors hope that what they produce in the future on behalf of the group will help to save them from their intense and anxious emotions that they are experiencing in the “here and now”( Rutan,Stone&Shay 2007, Rioch,1975). Pairing occurs many times between different jurors and serves to help the group process their differences and deal with the tension between the group’s need to vote unanimously and their own individual needs (Schramm,2010). Yalom and Leszcz: Group Norms, Group Process and Content

    According to Yalom and Leszcz (2005), every group develops norms concerning appropriate behavior. Their theory is that group norms “are constructed both from the expectations of the members for their group and from the explicit and implicit directions of the leader and more influential members (p. 122). ” From the moment juror 8 usurps juror 1 as the group’s leader, norms regarding the deliberations process are put in place. The norm is that the group will focus on logically and critically reviewing factual testimony without prejudice or bias to arrive at a just verdict.

    In addition, Yalom and Lescez (2005) also state that norms “are created relatively early in the life of the group and, once established, are difficult to change (p. 123). ” This can be applied to how the other jurors, despite conflict, follow Fonda’s lead and are persuaded by him to vote not guilty. Fonda has set the norm for behavior revolving around each group member’s way of handling conflict. Under Fonda’s leadership, the group creates a culture that defines how they express their feelings as well as what individual members can and cannot do (Yalom & Leszecz,2005).

    For example, early in the film, the group tolerates interruptions, angry outbursts and walking around. As a result of Fonda’s leadership, later in the film, jury members no longer tolerate interruption, critically examine testimony and are able to disclose personal information and refuse to acknowledge stereotyped insults directed toward the accused boy. The jury group’s norms develop over the course of the movie and a sense of group cohesiveness emerges as the men are willing to listen to one another’s perspectives on the testimony (Yalom&Leszecz,2005). They have developed a basic sense of trust in one nother and actually feel safe enough to try to understand each other (Yalom & Leszecz,2005). They are cohesive because they are able to acknowledge and express anger, hostility and conflict in ways that are conducive to maintaining the effectiveness of the groups’ ability to come to a verdict (Yalom & Leszecz,2005). Yalom and Leszcz (2005) advocate an interpersonal approach in order to understand the development and evolution of groups. Their interpersonal approach focuses on content and process underlying problems in current relationships and the ways in which those problems are reflected interpersonally between the group members.

    The term “content” refers to the actual material of the group members’ exchanges, like speech and all things observable. In contrast, “process” refers to how and why things happen in the group in terms of its development and relationships among group members. Process is implicit and refers to both conscious and unconscious motivations and emotional needs acted out by group members. In the film, there are two clear examples of how an interpersonal approach incorporating content and process can explain an individual’s behavior in a group. In this scenario, juror 5 initially votes guilty.

    The content of his actions as viewed by the others is that juror 5 has raised his hand in favor of guilty. However, the process behind his vote demonstrates his unconscious desire to separate himself from his own upbringing as a child from a Jewish slum, because he feels he is similar to the defendant. Another example involves the angry scenes between the bully juror 3 and Fonda, juror 8. The content of their interactions as seen by the other jurors reveals juror 3 as arrogant, intolerant and completely obsessed with wanting to convict the teenager irrespective of the evidence presented.

    It is easy to dislike juror 3 because of his personal attitudes and ignorance. However, upon closer examination of the process behind his content, it is clear that juror 3 unconsciously transfers his anger at his son-who he is not on speaking terms with-to the accused boy on trial. His unconscious emotional needs clouded his ability to assess rationally and logically the facts of the case and instead caused him to resist, avoid and defend against the task until the bitter end. Conclusion

    This paper extensively explored and discussed the development of group dynamics of the jury members in the film 12 Angry Men. The ways in which the jury accomplished their task has been accounted for and explained by each of the theories. Within the context of Tuckman, Bion and Yalom and Leszcz, group member behavior is interpreted and the different interpersonal tactics that ultimately serve to unite them and allow them to accomplish their task of coming to a unanimous verdict are analyzed.

    The group’s development is a result of each of the individual members and their interactions with each other and with Fonda-first the lone dissenter, then later the leader of the group. The jurors in this film benefited tremendously from being in a group because each juror was shown the potential consequence of their bigoted and indifferent thinking. The group goes through predictable stages of development, and certain characters take up specific roles for the group. Each member of the group responds to each of the roles in unique ways, determined by their cultural upbringing.

    There are parallels to a conventional therapy group. Despite the fact that the deliberation process seemed harsh and hurtful, the jurors learned a lot about themselves, the way they function in a group setting, the roles that they are comfortable and uncomfortable playing and most importantly, how others perceive and accept them. The end of the film suggests that upon adjourning, the experience of working together as a jury group was invaluable to some members. References 12 Angry Men movie. (1957). Written by Reginald Rose.

    Directed by Sidney Lumet. Dirks, T. (2010). 12 angry men. Retrieved October 15, 2010 from http://www. filmsite. org/twelve. html McRae, M. B. , Onoue, A. , & Allison, T. A. Group Dynamics, E63:2620, October, 18, 2010, class notes McRae, M. B. & Short, E. L. (2010). Racial and cultural dynamics in group and organizational life, Sage Rioch, M. J. (1975). The work of Wilfred Bion on groups. Retrieved October 15, 2010 from: http://www. grouprelationsarticlesonline. com Rutan, J. S. , Stone, W. N. & Shay, J. J. (2007). Psychodynamic group sychotherapy, New York, NY: The Guilford Press Schramm, M. G. (2010). Basic assumptions. Retrieved October 19, 2010 from http://selfhelpmagazine. com/article/node/218 Tuckman, B. W. (1965). Developmental sequence in small groups. Psychological Bulletin, 63 (6), 384-399. Yalom, I. D. & Leszcz, M. (2005). Theory and practice of group psychotherapy, New York, NY: Basic Books-Perseus Book Group. Young, R. M. (n. d. ). Bion and experiences in groups. Retrieved October 19, 2010 from http://www. human-nature. com/rmyoung/papers/pap148h. html

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