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April Book Club
by Dom,posted Apr 2 2013 8:33AM
Twelve Angry Men
By Reginald Rose
Reviewed by Dom
My ninth-grade English class performed this teleplay. (It was originally written for television.) Well, perhaps ‘performed’ isn’t the right word; we read it aloud, sitting in our seats. But that was my first exposure to Rose’s critically-acclaimed drama, and I remember being mesmerized.
Years later I was thrilled to see the original movie version (starring Henry Fonda), and I felt the same fascination.
This year I decided to go back and read the teleplay’s original script, and discovered that - even decades later - it packs the same punch.
The story takes place within a jury room, where twelve men must decide the guilt or innocence of an eighteen-year-old man who’s charged with murdering his father. They take a preliminary vote, and find that eleven men want to convict him . . . while one man, Juror Eight, votes not guilty.
It’s not that he’s convinced the young man is innocent, but rather that he wants his fellow jurors to look at the case again, without the biases and prejudices that they brought with them into the jury room. Slowly and meticulously, Rose paints a startling picture of how personal prejudice often taints our decisions; we’re sure to either see someone we know amongst the jurors, or perhaps see ourselves.
The strength of the writing is in how quickly we come to know each of these men, without ever knowing their names. I’m also impressed with how we learn so many details from the trial without ever watching a single witness testify; all of the action takes place during the jury’s deliberation. It’s first-rate writing.
Yes, the story is dated in some aspects, but the overall message - and the page-turning drama - remain evergreen. This is a very fast read (fewer than 75 pages), and one that you should add to your collection.
Find your copy of Twelve Angry Men at all three locations of The Tattered Cover Book Store through the end of April, and save 20% with the Dom and Jane Book Club.