Analysis of 12 Angry Men

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In viewing 12 Angry Men, we see face to face exactly what man really is capable of being. We see different views, different opinions of men such as altruism, egoism, good and evil. It is no doubt that human beings possess either one or any of these characteristics, which make them unique. It is safe to say that our actions, beliefs, and choices separate us from animals and non-livings. The 20th century English philosopher, Martin Hollis, once said, “Free will – the ability to make decisions about how to act – is what distinguishes people from non-human animals and machines 1”. He went to describe human beings as “self conscious, rational, creative. We can fall in love, write sonnets or plan for tomorrow. We are capable of faith, hope and charity, and for that matter, of envy, hated and malice. We know truth from error, right from wrong 2.” Human nature by definition is “Characteristics or qualities that make human beings different from anything else”. With this said, the topic of human nature has been around for a very long time, it is a complex subject with no right or wrong answer. An American rabbi, Samuel Umen, gave examples of contradictions of human nature in his book, Images of Man. “He is compassionate, generous, loving and forgiving, but also cruel, vengeful, selfish and vindictive 3”. Existentialism by definition is, “The belief that existence comes before essence, that is, that who you are is only determined by you yourself, and not merely an accident of birth”. A French philosopher, Jean-Paul Sartre, is the most famous and influential 20th - century existentialist. He summed up human nature as “existence precedes essence”. In his book, Existentialism and Human Emotions, he explained what he meant by this. “It means that, first of all, man exists, turns up, appears on the scene, and, only afterwards, defines himself. If man, as the existentialist conceives him, is indefinable, it is because at first he is nothing. Only afterward will be something, and he himself will have made what he will be 4”. After watching 12 Angry Men, the prominent view on human nature that is best portrayed in the movie is that people are free to be whatever they want because as Sartre said, “people create themselves every moment of everyday according to the choices they make 5”. Firstly, perhaps the most egoistic man seen in the film would be Juror 3.

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