The first thing that struck me while reading Twelve Years A Slave was the eloquent language. The narration of Solomon Northup exuded the overly proper dialect used at the turn of the century, yet the words flowed off the pages. He lived a happy and fulling life in New York with his wife and children as a free man, where he earned a reputation for his superb accomplishments on the violin. Tricked into traveling to the South by two seemingly nice men, Solomon awoke after a sickness to find his hands and feet shackled. When a slave trader told him he had been sold and never to claim he was free again, Solomon’s life, quite obviously changed in unimaginable ways.
Solomon’s factual narration was riveting. The story was packed with events, and I read it quickly. He recounted his attempted escapes, his battles with disease and death, and the inner strength he mustered to endure his environment. While reading, I discovered how little I really knew about slavery. The description of a slave’s daily life portrayed excessive working conditions similar to the people confined in work camps during World War II. After a long day picking cotton in the fields, the slaves performed the daily tasks necessary to maintain the plantation regardless of how tired they were. After that, they prepared their meals for the next day, all of which left little time for sleep. It shocked me to learn slaves weren’t even given a knife or fork, and basically starved. The description of the planting and harvesting of cotton was very interesting, and because cotton wouldn’t grow on broken branches, slaves were whipped for breaking one.
This was an excellent story of survival and resilience. The movie was mostly accurate, although Solomon’s narration was much better.