12 Years A Slave's Patsy Analysis

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In America’s Antebellum Period, the concept of slavery meant much more to a slave woman than hours of hard labor; to many, it also meant the continuous objectification of black women, both as property and subservient dependents of their masters. There is no better an example of this than in 12 Years A Slave’s Patsy, whose is enslaved through her forceful resignation to the role of an object, both to be used at her master’s lecherous whim and broken by a scorned mistress. An ever-present aspect of Patsy’s bondage is her inability to refuse her master’s lust, as she is his property. As was typical of the 1850s, the lack of legal liability of white plantation owners for the children they produced with their slaves allowed those same white masters to sexually abuse their bondswomen without repercussions, who—akin to “children” dependent upon their guardians, according to the law and to later views of men such as George Fitzhugh —had no legal right to consent or refuse their masters’ advances. An object of her master’s lustful hedonism, Patsy sees herself trapped in a similar fashion; the film boldly displays a…show more content…
Every action taken to abuse Patsy in the film is a reflection of not only a violent redirection of the powerlessness her mistress experiences as a legally-unrepresented white woman in the South , but another instance in which her power is taken away to fulfill the desire for control that Mrs. Shaw cannot act upon by herself. When the slaves are called to dance in the Epps’s home, for example, Patsy is struck with a thick glass bottle by Mrs. Epps in a failed attempt to get her husband to sell her. In doing this, Mrs. Epps has doubly denied Patsy an identity as a woman, and instead used her as a tool into which the mistress can channel her bitterness, jealousy, and desire to control as much of her own miserable existence as she
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