Essay Analysis Of Solomon Northup 's Poem ' 12 Years A Slave '

Essay Analysis Of Solomon Northup 's Poem ' 12 Years A Slave '

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Solomon Northup succinctly details his excruciating physical and emotional experiences in his memoir 12 Years A Slave. As he spares very few details in his account of horrific experience, his novel truly expresses a variety of aspects of American Chattel Slavery. The film adaptation that emerged from this memoir has had many industrial accolades and has been hailed by many as a cinematic masterpiece. While the film is poignant and effective in illustrating the message of Northup’s narrative, it also contains a few pitfalls resulting in a failure to truly capture the essence of the book.
Solomon Northup’s memoir is voluminous with details on his experiences and as a result, the reader has the ability to understand a variety of viewpoints and commonplaces on slavery. More importantly, however, the reader is able to see the dehumanization of a human being and the emotional and physical degradation that Solomon Northup faced. As a free black man born in New York, Northup lived a life separated from the horrors of slavery. After being kidnapped and sold into slavery, Northup slowly began a long descent into the horrors of inhumanity. While on board a ship bound for the South, Northup attempted to revolt and takeover the ship with his fellow crewmates. After one of his fellow prisoners fell ill with smallpox and died, this revolt was quickly abandoned. Even though this event actually happened to Northup, it provides utility for literary purposes. It marks the beginning of Northup’s forced acceptance into his situation. Even though Solomon continues to fight his captivity, this event marks the beginning of his physical inability to do so. Later on in the book, as he experiences more and more inhumanity, that physical acceptance of capti...


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...cess, it also detracts from accuracy and the translation of Northup’s memoir. While the film is an undoubtable cinematic success, it is only a story of a single slave and the slavery institution depicted in Northup’s memoir has much more veracity and historical depth. However, the film triumphed in bringing the story of a kidnapped slave to the screen all while successfully engaging a modern audience. It is incredibly challenging to encapsulate an entire novel into a two-hour film. Logistically speaking, many scenes have to be removed from the final product in order for the film to be concise. Another factor that made the production of this film difficult was that Northup was not around to direct the film in the right direction. Taking these factors into account, the film skillfully brings a powerful story to the screen and is generally worthy of is critical praise.

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