12 Years a Slave and Crossing the River: Postcolonial Critique

1165 Words Dec 14th, 2013 5 Pages
In the words of Kurt Vonnegut, “all this happened, more or less.” Despite the fact that time-travel and World War II (aka Slaughterhouse Five) have absolutely no relevance here, the quote still stands as a remembrance of sorts. Slavery in the colonial period happened more than less, actually. From the 16th to 19th centuries, the British Empire orchestrated the greatest institution of oppression through the Atlantic slave trade, subsequently producing unconscious bigotry and racialized fantasies. As a postcolonial United States absconded from the political, cultural and economic ways of Great Britain, imperialism remained as a consequence of the human colonialism of slavery. Steve McQueen’s adaptation of 12 Years a Slave depicts the legacy …show more content…
Subsequently, this notion parallels Phillip’s underlying argument of unconscious bigotry throughout Crossing the River. Each unrelated chapter alludes to the idea that men were not fundamentally cruel, and instead, was born into systems in which they had no control.
The behaviors and conducts of the collective group shaped people’s perceptions of the right and wrong practiced. Over time, those notions became so deeply etched in the mind that no rational evidence to contrary could unlearn said inscriptions, i.e. Hamilton’s disregard for slaves as equal humans, Edwards naivety in “The Pagan Coast,” etc. By the same token, Phillip’s characters mimic the same detachment as Solomon Northup; their inability to recognize the situation at large shows the multinational diaspora through generations, and renders them as mere sketches of real people. However, McQueen’s adaptation consequently offers juxtaposition to Phillip’s novel; the former gives a narrative perspective of the slave, whereas the former looks at history from a different angle, through the prism of those normally written out of the stories (or viewed as the culprit). In any case, both the film and novel mutually agree upon the idea that bigotry was inscribed in the culture, not the person.
With this being said, we can look at 12 Years a Slave as an anti-conquest film, despite the fact that it actively employs the Us-Them binary (i.e. the white vs. the black;

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