12 Years A Slave Character Analysis

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12 Years a Slave tells the story of a free black man named Solomon Northup that is kidnapped by two white men and gets sold into slavery in the South. He served many different masters, some very brutal and others fairly kind, for 12 years until he was rescued by his friends from the North. During those 12 years, Northup faced many challenges like for example being forced to whip his slave friends and also had to fight for his life in many occasions. Even though Northup struggled through slavery for 12 years, he wasn’t anywhere near a “Sambo type” because he still found ways to resist slavery and he felt emotions such as sympathy towards his fellow slaves. The idea of sambo could be fully understood with these three topics: personality, resisting…show more content…
When Northup was made a driver by Epps, he “learned to handle the whip with marvelous dexterity and precision, throwing the lash within a hair 's breadth of the back, the ear, the nose, without, however, touching either of them.” (Northup, 226). Northup cared about the slaves’ health, so he risked getting caught by Epps for the well-being of his friends therefore he couldn’t be sambo. Unlike sambo slaves, Northup wasn’t careless. He thought before acting so he wouldn’t regret anything later. For instance, when Tibeats tried to kill Northup the second time he used self defense but stopped himself from killing Tibeats even though the “lurking devil” in his heart prompted him to. As Northup was choking his master, he thought, “If I killed him, my life must pay the forfeit.” (Northup, 135) so he let Tibeats go and ran away before he did something he knew he would regret. Instead of sambo slaves that just did whatever, Northup thought rationally and controlled himself. The result of harsh slavery was to, “destroy the personality of the slave; that is, to reduce his behavior to that of a child.” (Elkins, 1). The reason Epps trusted Northup with the job of being a driver was because he thought Northup was reliable, honest, and nothing like an immature child. Unfortunately for Epps, his “truthful” slave was actually lying behind his back and disobeying him,…show more content…
Northup loved his family, therefore it would seem reasonable to assume he would do anything in his power to get back to them, including risking his safety trying to escape. When Northup was kidnapped, he was forced onto a ship with a couple other slaves, some being Robert and Arthur. “Who could be relied upon, and who could not, the proper time and manner of the attack, were all talked over and over again.” (Northup, 69) Northup was serious about this plan, he and his friends planned out the whole thing from start to finish. He was determined to get out, no matter how difficult. Slaves were said to have, “…No initiative, and offered no resistance to slavery” (Elkins, 2), but Northup wasn’t giving up yet, unlike the other slaves on the ship. A stronger example of Northup resisting slavery and his orders would be in chapter 18 when he was told to whip poor Patsey. He describes the scene and how horrible he felt hurting her, and after numerous whips he eventually writes, “Throwing down the whip, I declared I could punish her no more. He ordered me to go on, threatening me with a severer flogging than she had received, in case of refusal.” (Northup, 257). This quote is extremely important because it proves that Northup cared more about Patsey than he did his orders, also adding the fact that Epps threatened to hurt
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