11 Angry Men

Twelve Angry Men is a film about twelve men sitting at a table. They are on jury duty in a murder case, in which an eighteen year old boy allegedly killed his father. After hearing the trial, the jury is moved into a small room to discuss their verdict. The fan in the corner does not turn on so the room is hot, and when they open the windows, one man mentions that it is supposed to be the hottest day of the year. Some of the men have tickets for a baseball game starting later that night and are anxious to get voting over with. My favorite part of the movie is that through the whole film, no names are given until the very last scene. It enhances the movie because it reflects a real jury. With a name comes an association and in a jury, it is important that the jurors keep that emotional distance. The jury’s decision has to be unanimous either guilty or not guilty in order to move through with the prosecution or not. The result of the first vote they take is 11-1 guilty. This sends everyone into a fury. When the rest of the men asked the single man why he voted not guilty, he said he just wasn’t sure. He brings up that the only piece of evidence is the murder weapon that is a “rare” pocket knife that had no finger prints. The boy on trial admitted to owning the knife but did not use it to kill his father. The man talking pulls out the same knife placing it next to the murder weapon saying he bought it at a pawn shop near the boys house. He suggests the boy’s knife might have gotten lost and someone used a similar one to kill his father. While others deny it, he claims that it is possible. One of the men says “It may be possible but it’s not probable.” The man believes that they can’t send this boy to the death sentence if there is probable doubt. Before they know it the vote is 8-4 guilty. 

The men in favor of ‘not guilty’ run through each piece of suspicion and disprove it. There are two witnesses on the case, a lady who saw the murder from across the street, and a man who lived downstairs. The witness who lived downstairs said it took him 15 seconds from hearing the thud of the dead victim, to opening his door and seeing the boy run down the stairs. However, the oldest man on the jury relates to the old man and points out that he is an old man with a limp. He says it would have taken him more than 15 seconds to get to the door so the jury is able to disprove the fact that he saw the boy and claim that he assumed he heard the boy coming down the stairs. During the next vote, it’s 6-6. Then it becomes 9-3 not guilty. 

The woman across the street said that when she rolled over in her bed in the middle of the night, she saw the murder through a passing train. The jurors point out that she wears glasses and it’s unlikely that she put her glasses on in that moment. Therefore, her eyesight is questionable. She may have witnessed a murder but it is likely that it was a blur and she did not identify the boy. The men who want to prosecute the boy say that because she is a witness, her statement has to be true. From the beginning of the film, the same men claim that they can’t believe the suspect’s story because he’s “one of them.” The one man who has been fighting for the boy all along asks, “Why do you believe her story but not his? She’s one of them too isn’t she?” This is when it clicked for me what “them” meant. They don’t explicitly say this in the movie, but based on the fact that it was produced in 1957, we can confidently assume that the suspect is a man of color and when they refer to “them” in the movie they are talking about people of color. This is the implicit reason behind many of the men’s original vote to convict the boy. This reveals they actually dont care about the witness they just want to prosecute him. The first man who keeps pushing for “not guilty,” calls the others out, saying “Prejudice always skews the truth.” He reminds me a lot of Atticus in the way that he is fighting for this man that everyone else looks down on by logically disproving the evidence and simply having sympathy. And similar to To Kill A Mockingbird, no matter what facts were disproved, some men still found him guilty because of his skin color. 

The next vote 11-1 not guilty. Throughout the film there is a man who is strongly committed to his guilty vote. When the rest of the men asked him why he still voted guilty, he said he didn’t know and started crying. Then he changes his vote “not guilty.” As he continues to sob, everyone else leaves. The first man who voted “not guilty” stays behind and grabs the crying man’s jacket for him (a very Atticus move). Then the movie is over. Probably the most exciting part of the movie is in the last scene when the first two men to vote ‘not guilty’ introduce themselves. Their names are Davis and Mccardle.

It’s What’s in the Heart

One thing I noticed when reading this book is how gentle Atticus is portrayed. I specifically marked two places in my book where Miss Maudie reflects on this aspect. On page 60, Lee writes, “If Atticus Finch drank until he was drunk he still wouldn’t be as hard as some men are at their best.” Miss Maudie is telling Scout that following the Bible does not automatically make someone a decent person, making the comparison that a Bible in one man’s hand can be worse than whiskey in the hand of Atticus. This goes to show that it is not one’s beliefs that matter, but their heart. Miss Maudie also says, “If your father’s anything he’s civilized in his heart…I think maybe he put his gun down when he realized that God had given him an unfair advantage over most living things. I guess he decided he wouldn’t shoot until he had to, and today he had to.” (130) Just because he can shoot, doesn’t mean that he particularly wants to, because Atticus is not malicious at heart and does not like that he possessed the power to kill. 

This trend I noticed was exemplified in the New Yorker Article, “The Courthouse Ring.” The author Malcom Gladwell draws a connection between Big Jim Folsom and Atticus. Big Jim Folsom believed in the rights of black men but was not an activist. He believed doing little things in his everyday life to encourage equality, like shaking the hands of two black men before greeting the judge that he was there for. Atticus does that too, in a sense. He tells Scout not to use the n word, and that it’s not okay to hate anybody, not even Hitler. When he is sitting outside of the jailhouse, he does not plan to use violence on the men that come for Tom. The most important fact of matter is what the article highlights, that when Tom Robinson is found guilty, Atticus did not throw a fit like an activist would, but rather walks out silently and solemnly. The article states, “He’s not Thurgood Marshall looking for racial salvation through the law. He’s Jim Folsom, looking for racial salvation through hearts and minds.” His gentle nature is what encouraged him to fight for Tom Robinson because Tom’s color is not a factor to Atticus, his heart is. Atticus had every right after working so hard to be angry about the verdict, but he did not show the slightest rage.

Force or Choice?

I was confused at first as to why Krog would include a story from her personal life in her accounts of the amnesty cases in Country of My Skull. The story of her brothers and the cattle thieves in Chapter 1 seemed unrelated to the topic of the book for me. That is, until her brother used the word ‘force’ and it reminded me of something in Long Night’s Journey into Day. When the film reviews the case of the Gugulethu 7, one of the perpetrators, Thapelo Mbelo, who was a part of the Vlakplass police force, says “I was forced to do it.”.  Mbelo is being confronted by the mothers and wives of the men who were killed. One of the women accuses him of selling his blood, giving up his black brothers and sisters in exchange for money. And he agrees, but he says he had to take orders and he is asking for forgiveness because he was the one being told, not the one doing the telling. One of the mothers says that he did not have to go against his own community but he still implies it was the government that ultimately ruled him to do the killings. Same with Robert Mcbride who was a policeman who bombed a restaurant and killed three women. He, too, says that he was pressured to do it and that he only wanted to assist in ending apartheid; he thought that the government was trustworthy. Both allude to the authority of the government as reason for their actions. But some, like the mothers of the Gugulethu 7, would argue however that in the end these men still had a choice, even if the government made it their only choice. 

Similarly, in Country of My Skull, Krog tells of how her brother was ‘forced’ to kill the cattle thief. He says, “He who is trespassing and breaking the law – by running away, forcing me to shoot him – he is forcing me to point a gun at another human being and pull the trigger… and I hate him for that,” (16). He claims that the thief is forcing him to do it. But again, it is technically his choice. He could have taken another course of action, but Krog suggests that this is the only choice that will make the thieves learn, because in their society there would be no repercussions for the thieves unless the brothers had taken action themselves. 

In all of these situations, the men claim to have been forced to kill another person. Though, some would argue that they had a choice. It may not have been an easy choice, but it was still a choice. The government provided them with the option of taking another person’s life, or risking the lives of their families. So is this still considered force?

Why does Zong! look like that?

When I first opened the Zong! document I thought that I had broken my computer. At first glance, the structure is shocking. And like any other shocking element in literature, there’s a reason for it. I thought that the format was representative of the way a slave would have spoken. Coming from a foreign country and not knowing English / being deprived of the opportunity to become literate, a slave during this period might have spoken in sentence fragments like this. However, these “sentences” seem to be more chaotic. In the essay, Philip explains her clever tricks. Her approach was to choose words randomly, similar to the way that the slaves were chosen, which she describes as, “selected randomly then thrown together hoping that something would come of it.” Then I began to connect the dots between the words and the meaning. The words themselves represent each of the slaves. The large gaps of space represent the space that the slaves needed in the boat. Philip mentions that she tried to do research to get the names of the slaves on the boat and was devastated to find out that records were not kept of that. These humans were stripped of their names and therefore part of their story. Philip, in response, strips us of their story by “not telling it”. 

This is a story that needs to be told and Philip addresses that multiple times, but it is apparent that something is being held back. She says, “But this is a story that can only be told by not telling, and how am i to not tell the story has to be told.” This is where I get confused. She produced these poems in effort to tell the story. It is chaotic and mysterious, but it is not clear. So we know that she is not telling the story because in her eyes it cannot be told, but why, considering she explains the story in the essay?