Rose has used the actions and motives of the jurors as a method of characterising and thus criticising the practise of McCarthyism. A fine example of this is the 3rd juror. A reckless and unrestrained man, he makes accusations against fellow jurors for not siding with his point of view; ‘Listen, you voted “guilty”, didn’t you? What side are you on? ’ – a direct reflection of the actions adopted by senator Joseph McCarthy in the 1950’s. The 3rd juror also wrongly accuses the 5th for changing his vote to ‘not-guilty’ without any evidence to support his conclusion.
This further exemplifies the premise of ‘making unfair allegations or using unfair investigative techniques, especially to restrict dissent’. He also verbally attacks those jurors that he perceives as beneath him to further assert his own power or control as well as to discourage any views that are contrary to his own. The 10th juror is also used to reflect another aspect of McCarthyism. He seems almost afraid of those different to him and his speech regarding those born in slums is an example of the paranoia that the practise of McCarthyism can spread.
It is also evident that the 3rd and 8th jurors had virtually decided the defendant’s guilt without any reference to evidence and were both very unwilling to concede that a reasonable doubt existed. It is clear that Rose has used the most unreasonable and reckless jurors to characterise McCarthyism in order to condemn its practise and to explore the dangers that similar movements pose to society. Twelve Angry Men as an interpretation of the American Dream
Twelve Angry Men explores a national ethos of the United States; the notion that the opportunity for prosperity and success exists for every man regardless of social class or circumstances of birth. This set of ideals is defined as the ‘American Dream’. Rose has used the jurors of the play to demonstrate how the notion of the American Dream can influence the underpinning ideals that society operates upon. For instance, the 8th juror provides an advocate for the principle of equality – the notion that ‘all men are created equal’ regardless of ethnicity or class.
This is demonstrated by his sympathy towards the defendant in regards to his difficult upbringing. The 5th juror then provides an example for the American Dream in action. He has been able to create a successful career for himself despite being born in a slum. Rose has used him to support the premise that social mobility can be achieved despite a disadvantaged upbringing through a willingness to work hard. The 10th juror is then used to represent those who attempt to undermine the values of equality that are explicitly rendered within the dream by continually distinguishing himself from ‘them’.
The 3rd juror also exemplifies someone who has achieved material success (not necessarily internal fulfilment) through a willingness to work hard and strive forwards. The consumerist culture that has been facilitated by the American Dream has also been represented by Rose – in the form of the 12th juror. Attached to the 3rd and 12th jurors is the notion that the focus of the dream has shifted to material ownership rather than personal progress or contentment, that success is only defined in terms of money.
It is the evident unhappiness of the 3rd juror which details that material possession certainly does not guarantee intrinsic fulfilment. The methodical criticism of seemingly solid facts by the 8th juror highlights a transition from concrete to intangible. Rose has done this to demonstrate that not everything is as certain as it first seemed and in turn this can be applied to the seemingly impermeable institution of the American Dream.
The overriding prejudices of many in the jury room shows that hard work may not guarantee success and social class or race can have an impact on individuals perceptions of others. This exemplifies the pessimistic belief that the American wealth structure perpetuates long-standing racial and class inequalities embedded in American society. This is in contrast to the idealistic view that a 1950’s America presented a frontier for egalitarian societies. Thus Rose has debased the belief that obtaining wealth is necessary in achieving one’s dreams.