12 Angry Men

12 Angry Men

                        Rhetoric is a strong tool in arguments which if used carefully can go a long way in helping one make a convincing argument. Often, the course of events can be shifted through the careful tone and argument presentation which effectively leads others to see the point being made. In the 1957 classic movie ’12 Angry Men’ one of the characters (Juror 8) clearly exemplifies the use careful rhetoric in argument construction. The movie is set in a courthouse where a 12 member jury is deliberating on the fate of a young man who is accused of murdering his father. At the beginning of the deliberations, Juror 8 is disadvantaged facing tough odds since all the rest of the jury gives a guilty verdict with him voting not guilty. However, he employs a number of rhetorical techniques to convince them to review the evidence and eventually convinces all of them to vote not guilty.

One of the most outstanding tactic employed by Juror 8 in his arguments is the use of ethos.Ethos is effectively emphasizes the credibility/reliability of the arguer and hence enhances their trustworthiness. Juror eight does this all through the argument in the film by presenting his arguments calmly. He succeeds to control the argument in the room through his calm demeanor which effectively presents him as trustworthy. For instance, a conflict arises before the jury starts discussing the evidence whereby juror 3 condemns juror 9 for challenging juror 10who subjectively judges the accused due to his background. Juror 9 flares up and is about to engage in a heated argument with juror 3 when juror 8 stops him by calmly placing his hand on him. Somehow, his calmness relaxes juror 9 who refrains from continuing with the argument. Later in the argument, juror 3 and 10 loudly questions juror 8 when he produces a knife similar to the alleged murder weapon. However, Juror 8 retains his cool and goes ahead to present his point illustrating that the alleged unique murder weapon was not unique since he had acquired a similar one cheaply and easily in the neighborhood of the crime scene. In so doing, he wins over the respect and trust of some other members of the jury.

Juror 8 effectively applies the ad hominem technique to discredit the arguments of his opponents. For instance, at one point in the argument, the jury is discussing the fact that an old female neighbor claims that she saw the boy murder his father through her window. Juror 10 makes a spirited argument asserting that he believes what the old woman stated. However Juror 8 challenges him asking him “…How come you believed her? She’s one of them too, isn’t she?” He says this in reference to the fact that the same juror 10 had earlier made an argument to the effect that he does not believe whatever the accused boy said due to the fact that he comes from a slum background. This comment infuriates juror 10 who threatens to become physical and even advances to where juror 8 is seated. However, juror 8’s point of view sinks in with the other members and some of them including the foreman and the vocal juror 3 intervene to calm down juror 9. By maiking this point, juror 8 highlights the fact that juror nine is subjective in his arguments since he treats the accused with some double standards. This effectively discredits juror 9’s prior argument that the boy (accused) cannot be trusted due to his background. The attack on juror 3’s credibility effectively prompts the jury to closely examine the claims of the boy which they had previously viewed subjectively.

The appeal to logic (logos) is among the most effective rhetorical tools in an argument. In ’12 Angry Men’, juror 8 employs this tactic to challenge the admissibility of the pieces of evidence presented in the case. For instance, he explores the allegation that the accused had lied about being in a movie theater when the murder happened. He explores the boys past and the fact that he had been upset at the time he watched the movie to explain why he could have forgotten the title of the movie.  In another instance, he logically challenges the fact that an old woman who testified to having seen the boy murder his father could have accurately established that it was the accused. He presents the fact that the woman had faulty eyesight and that she did not her classes on to explain why she could not have accurately identified the murderer. In addition, he disputes the testimony of an old man who claims to have heard the accused claim that he would kill he father by examining the circumstance at the alleged time the witness (old man) claims he heard the conversation. Apparently, an el train had been passing during that time and juror 8 uses this fact to propose that the old man could not have heard the conversation and even if he did could not have clearly made out the person talking. In this case, none of the other jurors argue with him due to the robustness of his argument.


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