Solomon Northup As A Slave

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The film begins with the words based on a true story and finishes “with a description of what happened to Solomon Northup and his assailants after he was restored to freedom. What happens in between… frequently beggars the imagination”. (Slate Magazine, 2014) Set in 1841, the film follows the story of Solomon Northup, (played by Ejiofor) a once free black man and able musician who is drugged, kidnapped and sold on as a slave. The film is of his memoirs, which shows “no fiction, nor exaggeration”. (Northup, 1853 p, 321) into the horrors of the 19th century and the slave trade in America. The film is recognised as a masterpiece not just by its many awards including its Oscar wins but by many critics too. “Although the subject matter made …show more content…
(West, 2015) “These quarters were bare and simple, these shelters were cold in winter, hot in summer, and leaky when it rained.” (Costly, 2015). Northup impresses Ford with a cost-effective passage through the swamp and is rewarded with a violin. It is after this that tensions between Tibeats (played by Dano) a carpenter and Northup. An image of slavery that 12 Years a Slave illustrates is the normalisation of violence. One of the most shocking moments in the film 12 Years a Slave, starts as Northup defending himself against Tibeats, and finishes with him hanging from “a limb, extending from the body of a peach tree,” (Northup, 1853, p. 186) with a rope around his neck struggling to reach the floor below him. Increasing the callousness of the scene is the use of the background to add effect; a technique that McQueen uses excellently well, is the other slaves continuing their labour not even straying from their work to look at another slave gasping for life, as if it was another normal day on the plantation. Northup hangs there all day, for what to him would seem like an eternity, contemplating “if [his] my time had come, if he would never behold the light of another day” (Northup, 1853, p. 180) The scene shows the fear that Northup lived throughout …show more content…
Epps states that the slaves are his property and “a man does how he pleases with his property” (12 Years a Slave, 2013). By law, Epps was regrettably correct, “A slave is one who is in the power of a master to whom he belongs…” (Civil Code, Art. 35.) Another scene showing the true horrors of slavery is when Epps forces Northup at gunpoint to whip Patsey for leaving planation. Epps who has become enraged due to her absence orders her to be whipped, with Mrs Epps encouraging it. McQueen is able to show the true treatments of slaves were was harsh and inhumane. Weld explains in American Slavery As It, “The slaves are terribly lacerated with whips…” (1968) “The shot is horrifying, and shows her flesh being torn and rendered open by the whip as it makes contact, cleaving chunks of flesh away.” (Movies.stackexchange.com, 2015) “The painful cries and shrieks of the tortured Patsey, mingling with the loud and angry curses of Epps loaded the air.” (Northup, 1853, p. 408). Like the scene with Northup ‘tip-toeing’ whilst being hanged, “the film portrays how these horrible acts weren’t only tolerated but given their regular occurrence and integration into social norms, viewed as completely normal.” (Slate Magazine,

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