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Part A

Instructions

With reference to ONE of the primary texts studied this semester in the unit’s drama module, answer the question below in 1000 words using an essay format. Please include an introduction, body paragraphs, conclusion, and a works cited list. You must refer to ONE secondary academic source (as provided on the vUWS site) in your Part A response.

Question

How is justice OR truth addressed in EITHER An Enemy of the People OR Twelve Angry Men? (In your answer, be sure to relate justice OR truth to aspects of form and NOT simply retell the story.)

Part B

Instructions

You must address the Part B question by writing a 500-word short answer response. You must refer to ONE secondary academic source (John Frow, “Approaching Genre”) in your Part B response (as provided on the vUWS site). In your answer, you may address any primary text studied this semester, except for the primary text you used in Part A of this assessment AND the primary text you addressed in Assessment Two.

Question

John Frow argues in “Approaching Genre” that genre “is a set of conventional and highly organised constraints on the production and interpretation of meaning” (10). How has ONE primary text you have read this semester resisted genre’s controls?

Analysis of Justice in Twelve Angry Men

Introduction

The essay aims to provide an analysis of the play Twelve Angry Men written by Reginald Rose during the mid-20th century. The courtroom drama became so popular that it was adapted into different art forms including theatre, film, radio and television play.  The film version was the most popular (IMDb.com 2018). The play is about the twelve men of a jury who are responsible for deciding the fate of a teenage Puerto Rican boy accused of murdering his father.  In this essay, the focus would mainly be on the way justice has been portrayed in the text and the power of the two words “reasonable doubt”. 

The play revolves around the fate of a teenager in the hands of twelve jurors who are locked in a room to give their verdict. The play has several key points that relate to justice and the way people mold it to satisfy their own grudges. The play begins with the judge’s instructions for the jury and then turns its focus towards the teenage boy. While the jurors enter the room for discussion, it becomes clear initially from their body language that they are least interested in debating the issue. They seem to be in a hurry to finish the proceedings and get back to their usual works. One of the jurors is in a hurry to attend a bowl game while another is convinced that the boy is guilty since he comes from a lower class. One juror stands out amongst others, as he is the only one (Juror 8) who votes ‘not guilty’ in favor of the boy because he believes such a huge decision needs some discussion.

The dialogues between the characters of the play help in establishing the plot and its development as well. The readers are made to feel uneasy at once through the introduction of each of the jurors. The demeanors of the jurors except for Juror 8, who votes in favor of the convicted boy show that they take justice for granted. It is easily understood from the way the jurors give their vote initially that they are not bothered about true justice but to save their time and energy. When Juror 8 asks other jurors the reason they voted ‘guilty’ for the boy, many of them had no valid explanation. The statements like, “I just think he is guilty because nobody proved otherwise”, “can I pass?” when asked about why the jurors felt the boy was guilty demonstrates the shallowness they have regarding justice (Rose 2016).

It is interesting to note that the play chose the courtroom as the setting to carry out the drama and the tension. The setting plays a vital part in bringing out the effect desired by the playwright or the filmmaker. In this play as well, the setting has played a significant part in allowing the characters to develop and the concept of justice come out.  The jurors were provided a room that was very hot and the only fan in the room had stopped working. It was summer and they were having a difficult time coping with the heat. Amidst these difficulties, they had to make the tough decision of a young boy’s life. Most of the jurors found giving the ‘guilty’ verdict easier than coping with the heat. To them, giving justice to the individual was less important than handling the heat. The setting bears a metaphorical meaning as well, because it takes place within the building that stands for justice and fairness. In that same building, the jurors make a mockery of justice by taking the all-important responsibility of saving or ending a boy’s life so lightly.  

Role of Setting, Characters, and Dialogue

In the course of the entire play, the readers and viewers are exposed to the two conflicting views of justice as portrayed by the characters. The characters thus, played the most crucial role of addressing the issue of justice and presenting different views of it. The eleven jurors, who had the responsibility to convince the one juror that the boy is guilty, bring out many aspects of the American judicial and moral system. They help in letting the audiences and readers know about the shallowness as well as the greatness about the American judicial system. They also bring forth the stereotypes and prejudices that some people hold against a particular community and are willing to compromise justice to come out superior. Juror 10 represents this class by openly displaying his resentment against the boy’s social status before he ultimately changes his vote to ‘not guilty’ (Rose 2016). Juror 8 symbolizes fairness and true form of justice, as he is the only one who is willing to invest an hour for a teenager who could be electrocuted within minutes without being given a fair trial.  On the other hand, Juror 6 brings up another important question that if they vote in favor of the boy but he turns out to be guilty then justice would be denied. This demonstrates that although each juror speaks of justice and wants it to be delivered, they are not sure whether judging the boy guilty or not guilty would be justice.

The play has addressed justice through the opening scene itself, showing the judicial building, the symbol of justice to the viewers and readers. The judge states clearly that the life a young boy rests on the hands of the twelve jurors and introduces the readers to the “reasonable doubt” term that would ultimately turn the table around (Rose 2016). The “reasonable doubt” that Juror 8 had, allowed him to convince everyone to enter into a discussion and as the play gradually advanced, the confusion regarding justice became clear.

Conclusion

The analysis of the play Twelve Angry Men revealed that justice has been addressed powerfully in it with the help of the various elements. The play was able to intrigue the readers and audiences while at the same time bring to light, the different perspectives of justice. This was established through the argument and counter argument between Juror 8 and the rest of the jurors. It was found through the analysis that the play was able to demonstrate different perspectives of justice and the prevalence of prejudice and stereotype that could overshadow justice.

According to John Frow, “genre is a set of conventional and highly organized constraints on the production and interpretation of meaning” (Frow 2014). The statement could be interpreted, as genre is something that restricts the production and meaning of a work of art. To cite an example, Twelve Angry Men belongs to the genre of crime and drama and hence, it must stick to this genre and must not deviate into other meanings. However, the author makes it clear that by ‘constraints’ he does not mean restriction. It rather means that genre actually gives shape and meaning to the work. the author further states that genre should mean the various ways of truth and meaning by which any work of art – filming, acting, writing or painting – are produced. Therefore, genre is extremely important form of literature and its nature keeps changing with the change in era.

The play An Enemy of the People has clearly demonstrated a resistance to genre controls by including elements of personal emotions and a pinch of comedy in the drama (McConnell 2009). The play did not confine itself to just the drama genre and provided an overall take on the issue of justice and fairness. It touched upon other themes like morality, philosophy, personal struggles and ignorance. However, it must be added that there are no glaring evidences of the text resisting genre control. It revolves around the drama and the tensions that build within the rivalry of the two brothers. The struggle between morality and power, between the interests of a family and the society is aptly shown in the play. However, the play deviates from its inherent genre of drama and becomes somewhat polemical. The reason is that the play attempts to put forward a point of view on the current system. The play, written by Henrik Ibsen, is a direct assault on democracy as it brings forth the idea that one who stands alone is the strongest. In this case, it resists the genre’s control and deviates into other realms of storytelling.

The genre control resistance is further demonstrated by the text when it becomes preachy on certain occasions. Although there are no direct instances of this but it is clearly demonstrated through the characters of Dr. Thomas Stockmann and his wife Katherine. Apart from that, the play also delves into the genre of realism. The characters in the play although converse in natural ways but they certainly indulge in some high-minded talks. It is often witnessed in the play that Ibsen makes use of realist approaches to create a “forum for ideas on stage”.

In the end, it needs to be stated that Frow’s statement regarding the nature of genre to restrict the meaning and production of a literary work could be perceived differently. The primary text of An Enemy of the People clearly shows a resistance to genre controls as stated by Frow. The resistance however, is not glaring but evident. While sticking to the genre of drama, the play touches other genres such as realism and polemics as well.

References:

Frow, J., 2014. Genre. Routledge.

IMDb.com 2018. 12 Angry Men (1957). [online] IMDb. Available at: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0050083/ [Accessed 12 Nov. 2018].

McConnell, T., 2009. Moral combat in an enemy of the people: Public health versus private interests. Public health ethics, 3(1), pp.80-86.

Rose, R., 2016. Twelve Angry Men. Bloomsbury Publishing.

Cite This Work

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My Assignment Help (2019) Addressing Justice And Genre In Twelve Angry Men [Online]. Available from: https://myassignmenthelp.com/free-samples/101907-introduction-to-literary-studies1
[Accessed 15 June 2024].

My Assignment Help. 'Addressing Justice And Genre In Twelve Angry Men' (My Assignment Help, 2019) <https://myassignmenthelp.com/free-samples/101907-introduction-to-literary-studies1> accessed 15 June 2024.

My Assignment Help. Addressing Justice And Genre In Twelve Angry Men [Internet]. My Assignment Help. 2019 [cited 15 June 2024]. Available from: https://myassignmenthelp.com/free-samples/101907-introduction-to-literary-studies1.

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