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Themes and elements in 12 Years of Slavery by Solomon Northup (1855)
12 Years a Slave is narrative by Solomon Northup in 1855. The narrative describes the family of Northup who later get kidnapped and works in cotton plantation, in the Red River County, in Louisiana. Northup father was also enslaved and freed after moving to New York. Northup married a woman of mixed ancestry on Christmas Day and had three children (Solomon 47). Northup was sold into slavery by two men who offered him a travelling musical show. Northup severed many masters that he praised some and condemned others. Northup lived a devastating life in cotton plantation where he faced brutal and cruel masters (Follett 14). After many years of slavery, Northup received help from a Canadian abolitionist who assisted him in tracing his family. An official State report was released for freeing of Northup. Northup filed charges for the kidnappers but died before the end of the trial (Follett 23).
The movie “12 Years a Slave” is a historical drama that relates with novel “12 Years a Slave” by Solomon Northup. Steven McQueen is the director of the slavery film whose theme is from a true story (Fuller par 3). Northup had two children and wife. He maintained his family with earnings from violinist. The story-line talks on pre-civil war in United Stated where Solomon Northup was abducted and sold into slavery. Northup faced cruelty from the slave owner, Edwin Epps. Northup worked as a slave for twelve years then had a golden chance to meet with a Canadian abolitionist, Bass. On the other hand, the movie starts with slaves receiving instructions on how to cut sugar cane grass. Northup has flashbacks of his family during the happy moments and his career as a violinist. The flashback ends when the traitors leave Northup in the cell where he get accused as a runaway from Georgia (Fuller par 7).
The original elements in the novel are slavery, the main character Solomon Northup, Ford, and Edwin Epps (Solomon 84). The movie is a replica of the novel and shows many similarities. The narration of the movie gives a summary of the Northup lifestyle before starting his slavery life in snippets incidences as back-flash. The novel describes Northup life in slavery as encounters of many masters; some cruel while others requiring the praise. On the other hand, the movie describes two incidences of masters; Ford who requires praise and Epps who is renowned for his merciless beatings. The characters in the movie are reduced, but the main theme remains intact. Northup is sentimental on female slaves and is willing to help them. Similarly, the movie shows how Northup encourages Patsey in her slavery and ways to avoid sexual advances from Epps. Furthermore, in the movie, Northup convinces Patsey to remain in Shaw’s plantation where she is enjoying the treatment (Fuller par 8).
The themes of the original book have been emphasized in the movie through vivid description of punishments that take place in slavery. The movie also insists on the cruelty of masters in cotton and sugarcane plantations. Female slaves experience series of rape incidences from the masters. The masters go a step ahead and give authority of slaves to punish the fellow slaves. The movie director Steve McQueen shows the importance of family reunion through use of Solomon Northup. Northup is happy upon seeing his wife after twelve years of slavery. The wife and Northup are overwhelmed with joy. Family reunion is also a common theme in the original book since the narration ends with a reunion of Northup with his wife Anne, grandson and daughters (Solomon 93).
Follett, Richard. “Slavery And Plantation Capitalism In Louisiana’s Sugar Country.” American
Nineteenth Century History 1.3 (2000): 1-27. Print.
Fuller, Graham. “Steve McQueen’s ‘Twelve Years a Slave’ Set to Shine on Solomon Northup’s
Ordeal” artinfo.com 30 Apr. 2012. Web. 04 May 2014.
Solomon, Northup. Twelve Years A Slave. New York: Brighthouse, 2013. Print.