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Keith Tse


  • Writer's pictureKeith Tse

Meaning of numbers (8)

I love the number twelve 12. As mentioned in a previous blog, the number 12 is a fantastically divisible number, which makes it compatible with many numerical combinations. ‘Twelve Angry Men’ is based on such numerical properties as we see numbered members of the jury engage in a fantastic intellectual debate (as mentioned in the previous blog, I love ‘Twelve Angry Men’, which is an amazing demonstration of the power of reasoning and intellectual debate). The dynamics of the debate can be shown to correlate with the jury numbers, as the jury members are numerically arranged and their jury numbers are often numerically significant. Number 1 is the organizer of the jury who is regularly referred to as Mr Foreman. Number 2 is a relatively small and modest fellow who has a somewhat boyish look and high-pitched voice. Number 3 is the main antagonist in the movie who stubbornly insists (for personal reasons) that the defendant is guilty. Number 4 is another main antagonist, but his sophisticated and cold reasoning proves to be not only a contrast to Jury number 3 but also a major difficulty and threat to all those who try to argue that the defendant is innocent. Jury numbers 3 and 4, therefore, form a natural pair, as they have such contrasting styles and are the last to be persuaded. Numbers 5 and 6 are both relatively gentle fellows who are persuaded relatively early on and hence form another pair. These two pairs (5 + 6/ 3 + 4) have a very stark contrast between them. Number 7 is a disinterested fellow who is not really interested in the debate and makes cheap remarks here and there just to get himself out of the case. His lack of interest and team ethic correlates with the fact that his number (7) is right at the centre of the numerical sequence and hence does not form any pairing with any one else. Number 8 is the main protagonist, played magnificently by Henry Fonda. He is the leader of the cause as he tries to convince the others that the defendant is innocent. Number 9 is an old man and turns out to be Fonda’s greatest ally, as he is the first to be persuaded and supports Fonda throughout the movie. They also shake hands and close the movie right at the end, so numbers 8 and 9 definitely form a pair. Number 10 is another old man, though much ruder, louder and rougher than number 9 as he also stubbornly believes that the defendant is guilty based on personal prejudice. Such similarity and contrast could be used to argue that numbers 9 and 10 form a pair. Numbers 11 and 12 are both gentle fellows who are persuaded at different points of the debate which happen to be numerically significant, since Jury number 11 is the fourth to be persuaded (4 (innocent) vs 8 (guilty)) while Jury number 12 famously changes his vote towards the end (4 (guilty) vs 8 (innocent)). Such symmetry also makes them a natural pair. ‘Twelve Angry Men’ hence plays on these numerically significant patterns which add beautifully to the flow of the debate. Magnificent.

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