Injustice Against Justice
Political leader, Nelson Mandela once stated, “As long as poverty, injustice and gross inequality persist in our world, none of us can truly rest”. Based on what Nelson Mandela said, the individuals who live through an injustice will be compelled to change it. When looking through the books and connecting them to daily lives, one can view ideas and learn how encounters with injustice will change a person’s identity and lead to them taking action. This concept can also be shown in literature, for example, In Steve Harmon’s case from Monster, written by William D. Meyer, Steve’s change in identity is shaped by the different injustice experiences he encounters. As he goes through a harsh trial, facing the prosecutor and giving up his confidence he still has to move on and stand up for what is right. Similarly in the screenplay Twelve Angry Men, by Reginald Rose Juror #8 faces injustices when it is up to him to show the other jurors that the boy may not be guilty. When people face injustice, one will lose confidence resulting in a loss of trust in other people. In losing trust in others the individual will need to recognize that they will need to take control of themselves and gain the ability to stand up for what is right to attain justice.
One’s experiences with injustice result in a confidence loss as the individual struggles to hold their opinion. A young African-American boy named Steve is in the middle of his trial and he is waiting to be called up to the stand. Steve has been through a lot in the past few weeks. He was accused of murder and now is being put on trial, he is very young and this is putting him through a scary time. Steve tells the reader, “Before she left Ms. O’Brian warned me that I should not write anything in my notebook that I would not want the prosecutor to see” (Meyers 137). In this part of the book, Steve has been through a lot and Ms. O’Brien is worried that Steve will stop trying for the case and start writing things down that could put him in a worse spot than what he is in now. In the part of the quote, “I would not want the prosecutor to see”, Steve is beginning to give up and starting to lose confidence in the case. He is starting to think that no matter what he does he will be sent to jail. The prosecutor has called Steve a “monster” even though she has no clue who the real Steve is. Ms. O’Brien is worried that if Steve continues to hear that and believe it that he will lose every bit of confidence that he had left. Similarly, in the screenplay 12 Angry Men, the Jurors have their struggle to retain their confidence in the case. Juror #8 is talking to Juror #2 and is questioning him about saying the phrase “I’m going to kill you”. They are debating whether or not it meant that the boy on trial was going to kill his father. Juror #2 stumbles, “Well…Gee, I don’t know…..I was arguing …I yelled at him…” (Rose 43). During the quote, the Jurors are losing their confidence in the case. Most of Jurors first gut when they listened to the facts of the murder believed that the teenager was the only logical choice for the murderer. As they continue their debate this opinion for many of the Jurors begin to sway and they get divided in half between guilty and not guilty unsure where they are headed with the case. In part of the quote when the Juror says, “Gee, I don’t know” he is losing his confidence and he is starting to see that maybe the boy could be not guilty. He is now unsure what to think because what he originally thought about the boy proved to have a chance at being false. In both texts, there was a murder suspect who was being falsely charged against their identity. Throughout the two books losing confidence and having a path where you are unsure of where you are going is a step towards justice and apart of achieving what is right.
Situations with injustice and inequality cause a loss in trust for the individual as they search for someone whom they can trust. In Monster, Steve is on the hunt for someone to trust when he finds all of the adult figures around him turning on him. Steve is in between his trials scared for his future. The prosecutor does not like Steve because he is a young boy, and he looks different than everyone else involved in the case. Steve tells us, “He’s writing the word Monster over and over again” (Meyer 24). Steve is losing his trust in others and he is trying to find himself as a kid. He is challenged by his identity to figure out who he is and he doesn’t know what to believe about himself. When the prosecutor says this about him he starts to believe that it is true so that is why he writes it over and over again, making it true. When the author writes, “over and over” It shows that Steve doesn’t know whom to trust anymore. People keep letting him down about the case and saying rude things to him. Losing trust also appears a lot in the screenplay 12 Angry Men. When the Jurors find themselves in the middle of debating if the boy is guilty the Jurors are not sure whom to trust. Some of the witnesses claim to see something that is not true and other Juror’ s are not sure if they can even trust one another. Juror #8 states, “Maybe for no reason. I don’t know. Look, this boy’s been kicked around all his life…He’s had a pretty terrible 9 years”(Rose 13). The Jurors do not know what to believe about the case. Even as adults they are still deciding whom to trust, the same problem that Steve shares. The Jurors each have their valid points, some that add to the case’s complexity and others that make the case simpler. Although when they gather all of the facts and put them together only a few of the Jurors have an idea of the outcome of the case. Then, when the Jurors say, “I don’t know” it is showing their uncertainty in one another and the facts of the case. They don’t know who is contributing the hard facts and who is trying to end the case just so they can go home. All of the characters mentioned in these books experience trust issues with those around them, but losing their trust is helping them to become one step closer during their journey to justice.
Obviously, when one is faced with injustice they must stand up for what is right, but sometimes they must do it themselves when other methods seem flawed. Steve is faced with the injustice of being on trial but he must learn to stand up and do something about it to achieve justice. Steve ends up needing to stand up for himself and prove to Ms. O’Brien that he cares about the case and wants justice to be served. Steve is declared not guilty and questions himself, “What did she see?” (Meyer 281). The whole book is one big journey to justice and an identity search for Steve. He went through many steps to get to justice, ending with how he had to stand up for himself when he didn’t know whom to trust. All around him are people who are older, stronger, and scarier than Steve. Some of them are used to this process but Steve was not. He knew that he needed to figure out how to be strong and stand up for what is right. When Steve states, “What” it shows that he is still questioning his identity. Deep down the whole time, he knew that he was not guilty, that he just needed to stand up for himself and show everyone else. The same step also occurs at the end of the text 12 Angry Men, when Juror #8 knows that it is up to him to show everyone that the boy needs to be given a chance to be proved not guilty. Juror #8 gives it everything he has to show everyone another perspective on the case. Eventually, all of the Jurors, except stubborn Juror #3 learn to see the different sides of a story and stick up for what is right. Juror #8 finishes the book with, “Not Guilty” (Rose 84). This quote proves how throughout all of the debates the Jurors had between guilty, not guilty, and back to guilty, they learned a few valuable lessons. The first one was that when you see injustice like what Juror #8 saw you should also stick up for what is right and hold that opinion. In both texts, the characters have a long journey on their way to justice. Although once they can achieve it, they have figured out whom they can trust, and to never lose your confidence. This is the final step on the journey to justice and everything they have gone through in the book leads up to the end of their justice journey.