Solomon Northup is the author of the story Twelve Years a Slave. Northup was a black man who had lived in a society in which black people were politically proscribed, economically drained, and socially ignored. However, Northup lived a good life together with his wife and children in the upstate New York community of Saratoga Springs. Solomon. Northup had gained his reputation as a clever jack of all trade, which accorded his respect from both the blacks and the whites.
However, Northup free man status and admirable reputation meant little in a slave society where the worth of a black man was measured by the labor transformed into earnings. Slavery had been exterminated in the North, but kidnappers who were driven by swelling demand for men and women to work in the cotton, sugar, and plantation roamed the land in search of the blacks. Northup joined a group of companions that helped him to display his talent in music to gain extra dollars. Northup as he was traveling to cities on tours, he was dragged, sold to a local slave trader, and later shipped to Louisiana where he labored as a slave for more than a decade.
Northup status as a free man shapes his narrative in a comprehensive way to describe the theme of the story, which is slavery. Northup free status from the beginning of the narrative to the time kidnapping to transportation creates the picture that slavery is wrong evil. Northup having been a free man in the city of New York he clearly understood his rights as a black man while living among the white. Northup clearly understood his identity, and he kept on reminding the kidnappers his names and his status (Northup, Eakin and Logsdon 45). Northup believes and actions however caused him a lot of mistreatment. Every time he mentioned he was as a free man he was severely beaten through whipping and boxing. As a result, his body was covered with blisters and was in great pain and difficulty. Northup constant proclamation that he was a free was suppressed by the brutality he received for defending his personal rights. He had to sleep on a damp floor without any pillow or covering in the detention room for two days. After the two days, Mr. Radburn brought food to Northup and gave him a piece of advice, if he was to survive during his service to the master. He was advised to speak less about his freedom and less about the cruelty of his master (Northup, Eakin and Logsdon 47). According to Northup, this was suppression of his right of expressions. The kidnappers were determined to change his behavior from a free man to a slave man. Northup could not bear to this bitter truth.
Northup status as a free man kept him in a better position to sensitize and bring out the injustice of slavery that most of the black slaves had wholly accepted. Northup as he was being transferred to his master Williams he meets three slaves Clemens Ray, John Williams and a young boy (Northup, Eakin and Logsdon 49). Northup was able to interact with them and find out about their background information and reason for enslavement. The three were opposed to the fact that someone could cage them against their will and they longed for their freedom to be restored (Northup, Eakin and Logsdon 50). Some of the slaves had been transferred from one master to another, and that was their lifestyle.
Solomon Northup stay at his masters pen Mr. Williams opened him to the brutality that his fellow blacks were facing from their masters. The cruelty of the supervisors assigned by Mr. Williams to oversee all work on his plantation was too plain before his eyes. The slaves that he found in the plantation had already lost hope and accepted to be placed under the servanthood of their masters at all cost. They could not engage in any argument with the supervisors nor question any action of injustice done to them. Master Burch threatened Northup that he would be killed for simply telling his slave colleague that he came from New York, and he was a free man. I will be the death of you-I will kill you... (Northup, Eakin and Logsdon 61). Northup could not understand how he had lost all the basic freedom he had as a free man, even the freedom to speak the truth about himself. The originality of Solomon Northup as a free man brings out every little bit of the level of enslavement that the blacks were facing under their masters.
Northup's staying at his masters pen often exposed the level of cruelty faced by the slaves. Northup could not stand any form of injustice done to his fellow brothers and sisters. He was most often at loggerheads with the masters who were taking advantage of the complete submission of the rest of the slaves towards their service. At one time, Northup refuse to be whipped by Master Tibeat for not following his order on the type of nails that he should use in constructing a house (Northup, Eakin and Logsdon 112). As a result, Northup got angry and whipped his master after he had tried to assault him for no good reason. The act led to a severe punishment in which he was hanged on a tree with his feet on toes overnight.
The status of Northup as a free man is instrumental in the narrative as it brings out the theme of slavery from every confrontation that occurs between him and the masters as well as him fellow slaves. The status of freedom of Northup is throughout the story put to trial by the act of slavery.
Northup, Solomon, Sue L Eakin, and Joseph Logsdon. Twelve Years A Slave. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1968. Print.
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