Strings Of Tension Essay

1667 words - 7 pages

Strings exude sweet sweeping symphonies, a graceful gliding upon an intricately crafted bow, as fingers press shifting tones, expanding melodies. Whips float then sharply crack the air, a rough rope noose quickly surrounds a neck, strangling, smothering the soft breath. 12 Years a Slave, directed by Steve McQueen, masterfully presents the true story of Solomon Northup a free-born African-American man who is coerced into joining a traveling circus as a violin player. The job that would seemingly further his career as a musician is actually a scheme to get him to Washington D.C. where he will be sold into slavery. Throughout the film violins appear, and as Solomon’s situation vicissitudes ...view middle of the document...

The new string is a personal gift, which establishes that he is a friend in community and the public is aware of his profession. The quick opening of the letter shows he is excited to fix his violin; it is an object of most importance to him. No words are said, yet we now know who Solomon is. He is a talented violinist, working to provide for his family.
When Solomon is offered the postion in the traveling circus, his skills in playing the violin are what cause him to be seeded out as a capable black man. He is referred to the two smugglers by a man who notes Solomon as an expert violin player. His love for music, an opportunity for profit, and the ego boosting manipulation of the two men convince him to join. After to being taken to Washington D.C. with the pair, he is treated for his success in the tour, after merriment falls ill then awakes bound by chains. He is isolated from everything he once had. After a series of events he is stripped of his identity and his violin. He is brought to be sold under the fabricated name Platt. Solomon captured right outside of governmental D.C. and a panning shot shows Solomon yelling for help through cell bars, in the midst of a non-supportive capital building in the distance. He cannot produce his free papers, leaving him with no proof of his liberty. He is experiencing two forms of racism overt through the horrible treatment, and covert in a system that often turns a blind eye to racial issues. “Covert racism,” as Coates states, “has just as long a lineage [as overt racism],” a system of “embedded […] systems of exploitation and oppression” (211).
Solomon is in a slave holding showcase house when Master William Ford is being pitched on different slaves to buy. Another slave is pictured playing a violin for entrainment of the buyers, although his playing is slow and somber. After Ford buys Solomon and another woman, the room erupts as she is separated from her kids. The man playing the violin must court a screaming woman out of the room. Solomon is then ordered by the slave trader to play, he worriedly but quickly plays the violin and Master Ford takes notice of the skill of the man he just bought. This scene is ironic in that the men and woman are being sold like animals yet Solomon obviously possesses an acute skill, one that is able to change the mood of a room without speaking a word. His playing has gone from tasteful dinner parties, to a naked slave distribution house, where a mother weeps for her children.
A short scene that adds to the diversity of the movie, and also delves into the symbol of the violin is when Solomon and his team of loggers run into a group of Native Americans. The natives begin dancing and singing, as an older man plays a stringed instrument decorated with bright colors, carefully crafted although it only bares one string. The stringed instrument in this case shows that the symbol takes different forms. Native Americans were similarly discriminated and taken advantage of,...

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