Twelve Years A Slave Essay

1236 words - 5 pages

In Twelve Years a Slave, Solomon Northup tells his tale of life as a slave in Louisiana. Northup, a free man of color, was kidnapped in Washington in 1841, sold into slavery, and finally rescued in 1853. Northup describes, in detail, the people he encountered, the abuse he suffered, and often, the brighter side of slavery. During my Louisiana History class, I learned that slaves exhibit various personality types and traits. Reading Northup’s’ account of events, one is able to discern those types and traits. It is my intention to explore those types and traits as they relate to a slaves ability to adjust to the institution of slavery.

The three main personality types identified in my ...view middle of the document...

Burch beat Northup mercilessly, while continuing to ask him if he was a free man. Northup answered, that he was in fact free, and Burch beat him more. Finally, he just stopped answering, although the beating continued. Burch finally stopped, but warned Northup that he was never to speak of being free again (27). Northup vowed to himself that he would find a way to escape, a thought that stayed with him for 12 years.
Northup teetered between rebel and accomodationist through a significant part of the book. When he was placed on the boat bound for New Orleans, he vowed to find a way to escape. Although, he had learned, for the most part, to keep quiet about being a free man. Northup admitted he had become “scared of a white face” (35), someone that he had never feared before.
Another slave, Arthur, showed rebelliousness, when he was forced, kicking and screaming, aboard the boat. He demanded his immediate release, but instead was forced into the hold. He too, through repeated beatings, calmed down and became submissive (42). Although Northup and Arthur had been beaten into accomodationist mode, they were rebellious enough to plot an escape by overthrowing the boat crew. Northup even hid under a boat on deck to see if they would be missed at night (45).
Once in New Orleans, Northup was put up for sale, and inwardly hoped to be purchased by an older city man, so he could escape easier (53). William Ford bought Northup and Northup had this thought about him, “Were all men such as he, Slavery would be deprived of more than half its bitterness” (62). Ford treated Northup and the other slaves so well, that Northup became an Uncle Tom personality. He wanted to please his Master and do right by him – he constructed a raft to move Ford’s lumber quicker. Ford deemed Northup “the smartest n----r in the Pine Woods” (71). Under Ford, he was allowed privileges such as visiting a neighboring farm to see how their loom was made, so he could make one for his Mistress (73), allowed to travel to play his violin and to earn his own money with music.
Northup was sold to Tibeat (ironic: Ti-BEATS) where he waffled between Uncle Tom and accomodationist modes, with a twist of rebel thrown in. Here Northup showed his two-ness (10/7) – the public and personal persona displayed by slaves. When Northup was falsely accused of making an error, Tibeat was about to beat him, but Northup rebelled and fought his Master. The overseer, Chapin, stood up for him, but not without realizing Northup was forever in...

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