Mutiny On The Amistad : The Saga Of A Slave Revolt And Its Impact On American Abolition

Mutiny On The Amistad : The Saga Of A Slave Revolt And Its Impact On American Abolition

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History can be learned through several different mediums, and it is arguable that the most popular methods are through film and literature. Each come with their own respective advantages and disadvantages, and can each have a different effect on how an event is both portrayed and conceptualized. When comparing the 1987 book Mutiny on the Amistad: The Saga of a Slave Revolt and its Impact on American Abolition, Law and Diplomacy by Howard Jones, and the 1997 film Amistad directed by Steven Spielberg, it is apparent that both the book and the film are able to effectively retell the story of the events that took place aboard the Amistad in 1839. Yet each shed a different light on the matter and have been received by people in a different way. It is important to understand exactly what constitutes these differences in order to ascertain which medium can be considered an effective teaching tool and to which type of demographics they should each be presented to.
While Jones’ novel more accurately describes the event due to providing more information surrounding it, it is unable to deliver the same sense of emotionality and character representation of those involved like Spielberg’s film could. People more easily relate to someone when they are given a face to relate them with, something that the book is does not provide. Words are given life through an actor’s performance and can manipulate a crowd into experiencing different feelings towards those being portrayed in a stronger sense than words alone. There are many instances during the film that use powerful images instead of dialogue to help us understand the emotional and mental state of the slaves, such as the depiction of bloodlust and anger when striking down the crew of the Amis...


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... than simply reading a book alone, however the tradeoff is an inability to tell the entire story due to time constraints, budgets, and other factors. This results in omitting many details, leaving gaps in our knowledge. Therefore, while watching the movie alone gives viewers a good understanding of the overall events that took place and a connection to the people they would otherwise not have, coupling the film with the book allows a deeper insight into the effects the event had on a grander scale.
From an academic standpoint, it is clear that using the book is much more informative than the film. Jones remains unbiased and historically accurate through the use of expert accounts, evidence through research and legal documents. The movie however took many creative liberties and sacrificed historical accuracy in order to tell a more captivating rendition of events.

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