Psychological Themes In 12 Years A Slave

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One of the darkest times in American history is the years that slavery remained legal. The idea one person owning another, like they were property, seems hard to believe in the modern-day, but in the antebellum South it was just a fact of life. Solomon Northup, the main character of 12 Years a Slave, was a free, educated, black man who lived in New York, with his wife and young son and daughter. Mr. Northup was kidnapped, while in Washington D.C., and sold into slavery at a New Orléans ' slave market. Mr. Northup’s time as a slave was full of trials, testing his will to live and his faith in human kind. Throughout Mr. Northup’s time as a slave, he endured many mental, emotional, and psychological abuses from his masters. The most central …show more content…
One way the Southern slave owners justified slavery was that white men were people of intelligence, and black people were people of labor. The white men needed some way to justify the owning of slaves, to settle their minds. For example, Edwin Ebbs, Mr. Northup’s second master, used the Bible as justification for owning slaves. There are many scenes in the movie where Mr. Ebbs is reading from the Bible, quoting many lines that refer to slaves in some way. The psychological impact of always being treated as an inferior is very traumatic. After a while, the slaves began to doubt their self-worth because the owners treated them horribly but they did not treat their hired hands as badly. As the slaves began to feel an increasing feeling of worthlessness, they would, most likely, become depressed. The inferiority complex they would have developed would cripple their thinking because eventually …show more content…
Another way slave owners, in the South, justified the use slaves was to consider them property, not humans. There are many differences in the laws about the rights of property versus the rights of humans. The slave owners dehumanized their slaves, so they could circumnavigate many laws pertaining to the treatment of other humans. For example, Master Ford, Mr. Northup’s first master, did not care that Eliza, a slave being sold at the same market as Mr. Northup, has a son and daughter. To justify the separation of the family, Master Ford tries to dehumanize the slaves, so he does not feel as big of an emotional impact as he would if he considered Eliza as a human woman. By constantly placing the slaves beneath the white humans, the slaves’ mental state would, undoubtedly, deteriorate until the slaves no longer wanted to live. These feelings that the masters made their slaves feel were awful and no humans should have to ever endure them. The dehumanization of another race of people is an awful occurrence, and it was one of the worst psychological traumas the slaves

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