You would think that a free man, father to several children in the North would never be enslaved. Then again, we were told that anything was possible. But to embrace and accept the things that happen out of the ordinary, it takes a certain mindset, a belief that everything would be okay. The faith and countless of helpless self-talks in the morning to get up like the sun in the deep south glared down at the slaves. For hours each day he toiled, from dusk to dawn, wincing each time as the whip came in contact with his skin. Through this memoir, 12 Years a Slave highlights the importance of human rights; hope, the courage that eventually brought him home to see his family. The never-ending faith helped him survive slavery for 12 years, and he lived to tell his story for millions to hear.
Would they ever see their children again? Would they ever see their innocent face smiling back at their mother with fondness found only within a mother-daughter relationship? Clinging on to their children, their loved ones, they begged the next buyers who showed interest to buy their loved ones as well. Their worst fear was to be separated from their children. The hope of possibly seeing their families again in the future hung at the back of their minds, knowing that it was only wishful thinking. The hope of possibly being free, to be safe in the North where they would be free from the beating inflicted upon their backs. It was the hope that aided those who were on the verge of giving up. There were so many times where Solomon saw how hope has been ripped to shreds in front of him. ‘“Don’t leave me, mama-don’t leave me,” screamed the child, as its mother was pushed harshly forward. “Don’t leave me – come back, mama,” she still cried, stretching forth her little arms imploringly.’ (Northup, 87) This was an example of a time where he could’ve felt like hope was overrated, and that he wouldn’t be able to make it out there alive. In such horrifying times, holding on to hope would be their lifeline gleaming in the dark, the only concept that made sure they did not let go. This characteristic of Solomon really reminded me of how the world could be. People always say that the world could be a cruel place, and to a certain extent, it’s true. There will always be times when one will feel like they are stuck, and that there is no right way out. The thought of giving up has appeared in each individual’s minds, no matter how old. However, it takes a mind like Solomon’s to hold on to the hope and believe in a brighter future.
Although Solomon was a slave in the eyes of his merciless owner, he was still a free man at heart. Even after the days of submission, he still firmly stood up to what he believed was right. None of the slaves would ever dare to disobey their masters, knowing that their lives were on the line. He fought for a place among those who were truly recognized for their work. Over and over again, slaves around him, including himself were abused. Forced to do extra work on menial food, water and rest. When his friends were abused, he stood up for them. When he was abused, he stood up to himself. ‘“Master Tibeats,” said I, looking him boldly in the face, “I will not.”’ (110) Somebody who had the guts to stand up for himself under the oppression of such a harsh master took a lot of courage. Although being so bold got him in trouble, and almost lynched, the courage he had was simply astounding. Without this kind of courage, he wouldn’t have ever dared to leave the plantations where he worked, and without the risks that he would take in those 12 years, he would’ve lived and died in the South, never thinking to risk his life to see his family again. The quality of courage wasn’t just shown in 12 Years a Slave, but in many other novels as well, such as Shawshank Redemption. Courage was also essential to the storyline because if Andy Dufresne never had the courage to embark on the journey towards freedom, he would’ve died in the prison of Maine. Other literary works like 7 Deadly Wonders, if Jack West Jr.’s team didn’t have the courage to pursue the Capstone even though they were the underdogs, the Americans or the Europeans would’ve had the power for the next 1000 years. This just goes to show that courage shines through in most books and that it is one of the many things that makes a book/memoir so appealing.
Throughout the entire novel, identity played such an important role-it defined Solomon’s road of survival, it defined how he reacted to challenges, but most of all it defined the faith that he had for the next 12 years, believing that if he stayed true to himself, everything would be fine. ‘“Well, boy, where did you come from?” Forgetting myself, for a moment, I answered, “From New York.”’ (59) Even after the countless of whip lashes across his back, he claimed that he was from New York, staying true to where he actually had come from. He was sold into slavery. He was going to make sure that people knew that. However, in the slave owner’s eyes, he was the wild dog that needed to be tamed, the dog that attempted to bark and bite. Even though on the surface, he was Platt, the skillful slave of the plantation, deep down within his heart he was Solomon Northup, the free man of New York. It was his will, his connection with his true identity that brought him out of slavery the same way that he was brought in. He was not just fortunate enough to escape the clutches of slavery, but he believed that he would. Michelle Obama once said, “one of the lessons that I grew up with was to always stay true to yourself and never let what somebody else says distract you from your goals.” What the former first lady learned from when she was just a little girl was proven extremely useful because Solomon’s goal was to make it out the other end alive, and by doing that, staying true to himself and reminding himself of who he was. This quote applies not just to studies, but to life in general. Each individual is made unique, so why change the thing that puts you apart from other people?
12 Years a Slave was a memoir that made me realize the shocking truth that for so long I was perplexed about. Real feelings and names throughout the story expressed how vivid Solomon Northup was able to remember the twelve years he spent in the South. Something as unnerving as this burns its way into the mind, and after reading this book, it gave me a pretty different view on Slavery. It was a serious issue, but it was not just the physical struggles that the slaves had to overcome, but the emotional attacks throughout their lifetimes took a toll on them. Being separated from their children was the last straw to sanity for many, and having witnessed it, it also made Solomon realize how deeply he cared for his family, more than ever before. It was the hope, courage, and faith that made reuniting with his family a reality again.