From The Life of William Grimes to the slave narratives of Frederick Douglass and Harriet Jacobs, slavery in fiction and reality is not something thats easily digestible to the modern man, it makes him flinch with disgust and the details churns his stomach in ways detestable. 12 Years a slave is the autobiography of a freeman, who was kidnapped and sold into slavery and redeemed 12 years later. Solomon Northrup lived in a time of great turmoil (which eventually culminated in the American Civil War) when the american consciousness was torn between freedom and slavery, with the southern states supporting strongly the institution of slavery and the northern states strongly condemning the devilish practice. What happened of it is a matter of history and of little importance to the book.
Solomon Northup was born to a freeman and spent his childhood working in his fathers farm, later he went on to move to Minerva after his marriage. The rest of the particulars of his life again is academic in nature now. He was a carpenter by profession, an educated, trained and unsuspecting man, who was lured by two strangers with the promise of a more rewarding job and then sold into slavery in the slave pens of New Orleans. The one thing that differentiated this man from the rest of the slaves around him was the fact that he knew what freedom meant, a fact that he had to conceal cleverly due to the fear of punishment and torture.
Solomon’s narrative of his on experience as a slave is mostly objective but it brims with a feeling of distance towards the whole of life. His need or desire to be as much away from the most torturous 12 years of his life is easily reflected in his writing. Its neither flowery nor flaunting oratory of any nature, just an observation of what he had to endure and how he did so. His account of life he saw happen around hims and what it meant to him. The most wonderful thing about Solomon’s narrative is that he didn’t demonize the villains in his story, they were definitely villains but he reserved crude judgements to a very appreciable degree.
The book ’12 years a slave’ by Solomon Northup is a good old slave narrative that objectively illustrates the life of a slave and his livelihood through the eyes of a freeman that he was. The book offers a clear perspective into the working of the institution of slavery and explains why the masters behaved as they did and for what end. Solomon explains that not all his masters were cruel and each had his own on way getting what they wanted form his slaves, from treated them a little as men and others terrified them. some gave them little comforts and rewards others gave them nothing and kept them that way.
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In association with ‘Pirates’ A Publishing House.