Analysis of Solomon Northup Text in “12 Years a Slave”
Analysis of Solomon Northup Text in “12 Years a Slave”

Analysis of Solomon Northup Text in “12 Years a Slave”

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  • Pages: 3 (1163 words)
  • Published: November 10, 2021
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“Sometimes the slave picks down one side of a row, and back upon the other, but more usually, there is one on either side, gathering all that has blossomed, leaving the unopened boils for a succeeding picking. When the sack is filled, it is emptied into the basket and trodden down. It is necessary to be extremely careful the first time going through the field, in order not to break the branches off the stalks. The cotton will not bloom upon a broken branch. Epps never failed to inflict the severest chastisement on the unlucky servant who, either carelessly or unavoidably, was guilty in the least degree in this respect.

The hands are required to be in the cotton field as soon as it is light in the morning, and, with the exception of ten or fifteen minutes, which is given them at noon to swallow their footnoteRef:1 of cold bacon, they are not permitted to be a moment idle until it is too dark to see, and when the moon is full, they often times labor till the middle of the night. They do not dare to stop even at dinner time, nor return to the quarters, however late it be, until the order to halt is given by the driver.” 1 1: “Solomon Northup. Twelve Years A Slave: Narrative Ofsolomon Northup, A Citizen Of New-York, Kidnapped In Washington City In1841, And Rescued In 1853.”, Docsouth.Unc.Edu, last modified 2016, accessed May 9, 2016, http://docsouth.unc.edu/fpn/northup/northup.html#northup176. Chapter XII, page 167.

The above selected passage fits in

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to the overall context of the narrative since the context shows us the inhuman nature of the slave owners, the poor working conditions subjected to the slaves as well as the punishments subjected to the slaves for very little mistakes. This part of the text the reader comes along with it when Solomon is describing how a typical day is like in a cotton field in slavery. A slave was not allowed to rest at all that is why the text tells us that the slave would pick cotton from one side of row then back upon the other and if he or she broke a branch would be seriously thrashed. The hands of a slave never rested from morning to evening just picking cotton except at noon hours where they ate cold bacon and they never returned to sleep in their residential areas until the orders to go and sleep were issued. A break of these rules would result to punishment even to death.

I chose this passage because of the heavy message content the passage delivers in very few words. In other words, Solomon describes all the life a slave passed through from sunrise to sunset. He clearly tell us what most of the slaves work was all about starting from picking up cotton continuously without stopping, filling the cotton sacks from their baskets and lastly lifting the cotton to the gin. The author also wanted to tell us what type of working conditions the slaves underwent through. Some of the working conditions included working tirelessly or rather being overworked from morning till late in the nigh

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and having no time to rest. At noon, lunch was fifteen minute or less that is when they would rest. Sometimes they were overworked to the middle of the night especially when there was moonlight. When there was no moonlight, they would work till it was dark to see showing us that they worked for more than 12 hours every day all throughout their years in slavery.

Solomon also wanted to tell us that they did not have enough to eat despite being overworked like animals whereby they would eat cold bacon that they swallowed showing us it was too little for them despite the fact that they were very hungry. By telling us that breaking a branch in the cotton field would warrant you a thorough beating, showed us that the slaves were beaten without any apparent reason or just for trivial mistakes. The text is thus important to the whole narrative since it summarizes all what happened in the life of a slave, where no mercy and violence as well as forced labor was the order of the day.
I think Northup wrote this passage to tell the readers what it meant to be a slave. He wanted to tell the readers how the slave owners subjected the slave workers to poor working conditions of thorough punishment with little food to eat and no rest at all. He also wanted to put across the message that simple mistakes in the farm like breaking a branch in the cotton field accidentally would warrant you a beating. Generally he hoped to tell us that life in slavery was not a walk in the park. The type of language that he used in this passage is one that which is figurative and one that has vivid description of how the hands that used to pick cotton were overworked. He uses simple words that are not difficult to comprehend hence enabling the readers to clearly understand the message of the author. Also the language is filled with a tone of sympathy and the mood is somber especially when the author tells us that Epps who was the farm owner inflicted severe chastisement on the unlucky slave who was careless or even had some degree of guilt in himself that he or she had done something wrong.
I think the author wanted to effect to his readers’ mind that slavery is and was a bad idea to have ever existed in human history. He hoped that by reading and understanding his work, his audience would embrace the idea that slavery is bad and it is a mere suffering to those involved. Hence, everybody should join hands to fight any form of slavery in a human being. I think Northup succeeds in putting his message across to his audience since his main message was slavery was bad and should never be repeated in human history. Through his descriptive and figurative language, the author has made his message clear that slavery is full of misery and suffering hence it should never be supported at all. However people would misinterpret him because they think that Northup and

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