“Twelve Years A Slave” Literature Analysis
“Twelve Years A Slave” Literature Analysis

“Twelve Years A Slave” Literature Analysis

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Twelve Years a Slave is regarded as one of the critical drama films that were produced in 2013. It is a revised version of the slave story memoir entitled 12 Years a Slave that was made by Solomon Northup in 1853. The movie elucidates key issues that arose during the slave periodfootnoteRef:1. The movie indicates how the slaves were mistreated by the masters and the effects that the oppression had on the slaves and their communities. This essay seeks to evaluate the treatment of the women and children in the drama film by exploring the role of men in protecting women and children, gender and allocation of tasks, and sexual assault in the movie. 1: Eakin, Sue L. Twelve years a slave: The autobiography of Solomon Northup. San Francisco: Eakin Films Publishing, 2013.

As expressed in the drama film, it is evident that the male slaves played a significant role in protecting women. Much of the defense was directed towards sexual assault that was rampant in the society. Unlike the male servants, the masters did not respect the female and therefore subjected them to humiliation and oppression. This is obviously realized in the case of Patsey. Patsey, a lady who was confined with Northup on the farm of a harsh master, was continuously subjected to brutality from her masterfootnoteRef:2. The master even rapes her under the pretense of a shocking and perverse story of love. Although this act is heartbreaking, the author endeavors to indicate the humanity that the male slaves have towards women. The male servants respected the women and

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therefore protected them sexual assault and other forms of harassment. 2: Pitt, Brad, Gardner Dede, Kleiner Jeremy and Pohlad Bill. Twelve Years a Slave.DVD. Directed by Steve McQueen. Century City: Los Angeles, 2013

This is evidently demonstrated in the case of where Robert protects Eliza. In the movie, Eliza is almost raped by one of the sailors in the boat when Robert, a male captive, makes an effort to protect Eliza from being raped. In fact, Robert is killed in the course of protecting her. This incident indicates the high level of responsibility that the male slaves had towards female slaves. They were ready to protect them, especially from sexual assault. In the drama, Robert is presented as one of the key selfless servants that were ready to give up their lives to protect women who were subjected to big oppression in the society. This clearly demonstrated that male slaves played an important role in defending the welfare of female slaves.

Gender played an important role in 12 years a slave because it defined the type of job that every person would be assigned in the plantations. Although both men and women worked in the plantations, jobs such as carpentry, coopers, blacksmithing, pottery, sugar boilers were reserved for men. Men were considered to be strong, and this meant that they were able to carry hard tasks that are associated with the above jobs. Women were mainly involved in the fieldwork, although some of them were working as house slaves and cooks. Ann Northup exhibits the role of women as cooks. Ann wa

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the wife of Solomon and the mother of his three children, and she worked as a cook in her master’s house. She was also a black female of mixed-race lineage. In fact, more men were collected from Africa to work as slaves as compared to womenfootnoteRef:3. 3: Ibid.

However, some of the masters and plantation proprietors preferred women as the hard workers. In fact, the great gang, that was also referred as the first gang of slaves comprised of strongest workers who also included women. At times, the female slaves outnumbered the male slaves in the great gang. Women also did all the heavy jobs in the plantations like digging, weeding, and cutting the canes. Although no specific age is specified in the book, it is evident that many children started working as slaves at the age of fewer than fifteen years. However, the role of gender in the allocation of jobs is evident in the film as discussed above.

Sexual assault is probably one of the major themes that the author wanted to highlight in the movie. The sexual assault occurred in various instances of the film causing psychological torture to the victims. Patsey plays a significant role in indicating how the enslaved women were used as sex objects by the masters. The viewer is drawn to the youth life of Patsey where she became the victim of the master and also the mistress. In the film, the master is seen assaulting Patsey sexually. Instead of expressing sympathy with her plight, the white mistress subjects her to both mental and physical abuse. Eliza also plays an important role in exposing the theme of sexual abuse in the film. She is considered to be her master’s property, and she is compelled to do what pleases her master to resist his rape. In fact, she is forced to submit to his desires in the hope that she will get a good life for her kids and herself.

When her lord fell sick, Eliza and her kids are traded to the local slave dealers by the daughter of the lord. The young daughter of Eliza, Emily, is supposed to be traded as a lacy girl, who would be used for sexual labor in the slave market of New Orleans. Emily is presented as the product of white male sexual assault, and the future victim of sexual abuse. What is understandable from the movie is that sexual abuse caused a lot of psychological pain to the children and male servants who had to stand by and regularly watch their spouses, moms, daughters, and sisters being sexually abused, and yet they were unable to help. Women also faced psychological torture considering that they were forced to engage in sex unwillingly.

12 years a slave is an imperative drama film that elucidates key issues that were experienced during slavery time. It highlights the role that the male servants took to protect the female servants. As stated above, this role was exhibited by Robert who died while protecting Eliza. It is also important to note that gender played an important role in determining the jobs that were assigned to men and

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