Professor LaShanDa Pittman
November 20 2015
Twelve Years a Slave In Depth
I have pulled an article about Solomon Northup and Steve McQueen from an English class I attend. While in this class we are discussing the feelings of people when they see movies like this or read an article that portends to slavery. The topic just so happens to be the same so the writing piece was perfect while the topic for this is to dive into Twelve Years a Slave into greater depth then what we did in class. There is plenty of information on Twelve Years a Slave, so there for made it a no brainer to pick this piece, everything about this article makes me want to use it. The article which is written by Janet Neary touches on many different points throughout. She likes to talk about what McQueen did when creating the movie and the difference between the movie and the book and how things were changed to either seem more worse than they really were or to make the viewers understand slavery better. I think when they make things seem worse that it can possibly ruin peoples views on slavery and give them the wrong impression and false information on the topic. The Twelve Years a Slave movie came out in 2013 as long with the article, slavery currently is a topic that is still talked about today and is something that people are still somewhat unsure about.
This article talks about the book Twelve Years a Slave and also the movie. Throughout the article the movie is compared to the book and what McQueen himself adds to the film to beef it up. He likes to add things that Northup himself did not include while writing the book. McQueen likes to touch on slavery as a complete struggle and that almost every slave was treated poorly all the time unless they had a specific importance to the master or to their field of work. I think he adds all this into the film to hopefully get his point across and to help open people’s eyes on the slavery topic. This is all pointed out throughout the article I have chosen to use. The article, book, and movie all talk about Solomon Northup a free man from Saratoga, New York who is captured into slavery and struggles for twelve years to regain his freedom. While going through these struggles it also shows what a freeman will do to try and regain his freedom and what he believes he deserves. The main focus is on how Northup sees things, for his first 30 years of life he is unaware of any potential danger that lays before him. The film touches on the cruel truth of slavery. How brutal it was and what the enslaved people had to go through on a daily basis. One part of the movie Northup is hanging from a tree with barley any breath left in him, he is holding on to dear life somewhere between stability and annihilation. Slaves are shown picking cotton on many different occasions, after picking this cotton they are then shown being whipped for not picking enough. This shows me that the masters are grateful to have the slaves out there picking for them but not grateful enough to leave them alone once the day is over. His daily life continued around the whippings and beatings even the most shocking examples of slavery’s brutality and terror. When seeing this in the film the viewer can see the real struggles of slavery and this was McQueens goal when making the movie. The movie was made to be in so much depth and pain that the viewer can “see the lash on someone’s back” this was made this way so that white readers and movie viewers may finally see how slaves suffered.
This movie appeals to me in ways that no other movie has before. When watching this film starting from the first scene you can tell that there will be suffering to an extreme extent. Northup is shown a happy man who likes to spoil his wife and who treats his kids well. In the start he always has a smile on his face but with me having read the book I already knew that this smile would not last long. While Northup is minding his own business he is talked into pretty much becoming a slave without knowing it. While he thinks that he is going to make a decent amount of money to help is family he does not know that he is beyond wrong. All fails when Northup leaves and does not tell anyone where he is going or who it is with. Once he is drunk and wakes up in chains it makes me feel like he was betrayed because he is a black man. The white man act as if they are better than him because of the color of their skin. In society you still see this today whether it is what people say to blacks because they think times have changed and that it’s alright to call black people “nigga” or other words they think are okay to use towards us. That’s one of the things that bothers me. McQueen highlights all the words and actions of the white slave captors and how Northup and the other slaves were not even aloud to voice their opinions or speak up for what they know to be true. He is mistreated by the men that said they would treat him right and do him no wrong which makes me feel like whites where just always doing wrong to African American people even if they were really free. For these men to go out of their way to approach Northup shows how desperate people were to have slaves and to kidnap grown men to make a profit. One of the scenes that hurts me the most in this movie is seeing Northup hanging from the tree and having no one help me. Growing up I lost my best friend to a hanging and seeing someone strung up to be killed like that is just beyond horrible to me. Throughout the movie families are split up and sent to different plantations, once Eliza the mother of the children and Northup arrive to their new home Eliza is asked to stop crying from the start because her children will soon be forgot. Eliza stays crying until master Ford sells her off. This makes me feel a way as if the white masters do not care about the slaves at all. Obviously they believe that blacks at that time were nothing more than property and if there was a problem the easiest outcome would just be to sell that property the same way they recently purchased it. The movie makes me feel as If the African Americans are only used for picking cotton or making babies, the masters did not care enough to think about the lives they were ruining or the ones they were creating and to me that’s just plain horrible, why go through the struggles of purchasing a human being if you’re going to just neglect them and not care about the outcome of them. Another thing that draws my attention is the way that masters will literally beat a slave for anything and everything, there seemed to be no way to escape the lashingings that were before them. I believe that this is an extremely good movie, it touches on all aspects of a slave’s life and what they go through. I think If a teacher is showing this to get a point across or maybe wanting to show it so that students or other viewers can know the true hardships of slavery then this movie is perfect and powerful enough to move a whole crowd, and have them feeling as if they know now what slaves actually had to endure. This movie is a complete learning experience and really does help show the aspect of slavery and highlight the true misfortune that was going on during this time period, and what African Americans endured and made it through.
Neary, Janet. “Witnessing Violence: Thoughts on McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave.” Avidly. Avidly, 24 Oct. 2013. Web. 18 Nov. 2015.