Sample Film Paper on 12 Years a Slave

Sample Film Paper on 12 Years a Slave

The issues of cruelty and slavery were so prominent during the nineteenth century. Selling of blacks into slavery did set the stage for racism and discrimination. The aftermath of these vices has been imprinted in hearts of both who heard and read books of the history. Steve McQueen’s film deals directly, and seriously, with this period in American history. The film 12 Years a Slave  reveals the horrific conditions of the slaves in the 1840s enduring sexual exploitations, gender-based slavery, fracturing slaves’ families and the ways in which they cope up with the physical and psychological torture.

There are several slave narratives. But the significance of 12 Years a Slave is that it comes from the perspective of Solomon Northup (the narrator) who grew up free and had the values of a freer society before he entered and ended up in slavery. Having grown up with his father, he acquired essential survival skills. His bondage journey started after being duped by the people who promised him to pay well for a music show. Instead of getting into the music shows, the two men sold him. The first chapter of the play juxtaposes the life of Solomon as he grew up and spent his marital life. He has a wife with three children. The chapter then dwells into his first slavery adventure and experiences as he gets sold from one master to another. Most important in this chapter is his acquaintance with other slaves who not only narrate their sad stories but also clearly show the cruelty of the slave owners.

The second chapter opens another page of how slaves who work on farms suffer. In this narration, Solomon’s life in both sugar and cotton plantation is presented. Presented in this section is the never-ending field labor, the pains of working even when sick and the levels of desperation in the hearts of these slaves. The interesting part is that it attempts to communicate the slaves are never fruitful. Solomon faced all these difficulties with a brave heart.

Throughout the play, gender plays a critical role to show the severity of the punishments received. The female sex suffers the most as they are double chained in this era of slavery. They are manual laborers to their bosses and are instruments of sexual pleasure. The abuse they endure is tormenting. They are subjected to physical and emotional distress. The women are mostly subjected to the house chores. This leaves the men with all the hard task.

Sexual exploitation is another major theme in  12 Years a Slave. The women are greatly harassed and exploited. This shows a typical picture of the lives of slaves during the slavery era. The women had the duty the responsibility of quenching the sexual desires of their bosses on demands of their owners. Sadly, their duty was to give birth to more children who would later be taken away from them and be slaves in other farms away from the mothers. The increase in slave population meant both monetary and labor gain to the whites so to have more production facilities (

The saddest part was the fracturing of the slave families. Parents are left without children; as they were sold into slavery without their consent. Solomon himself is sold into slavery and his family was unaware of it. The family is forced to go through the pains and torture of hoping one day he would come back safe. Eliza feels the pain more than anyone does since her life partner has left her. Such a suffering and raising three children without their father is unbearable. Sad still is the fact that she fears that her children would also be taken into slavery. Perhaps the clearest picture of this theme also displays in the narrative of Sojourner of Truth Isabella’s son. He was also sold away without her consent. This causes her a lot of stress and she decides to take a revenge on the master (Sojourner 44). Harriet Jacobs’s memoir also highlights one of the slave mother’s greatest fears was separation from her children.

The slaves employ various strategies to cope up with the pathetic conditions of the slavery. Solomon has used humor to manage the situation. Moreover, he loves to sing even in moments of trouble,  trying to forget his worries and problems. This echoes the life of Harriet Jacobs that provided readers with a female slave’s viewpoint of the cruelty of life under slavery. Like Northup, Jacobs asks her readers to come up with the moral situations of enslaved African-American women. Jacobs’s life revolves around sexual harassment, the attempts to exert power in a system where overt power was vested in the hands of their masters, the healing, yet sometimes stifling, love of family, and the perseverance of spirit.

The film 12 years a Slave is a story about survival and a suffering of great adversities. Despite all Northup endured, he was a participant as a victim of slavery who endured sexual exploitations, gender-based slavery, and fracturing of the slave families. He became even attached to the other victims, feeling their sufferings, sharing their hopes and fears. The sufferings of the slaves are due to the inhumane treatment they go through. They are treated as if they are aliens or rather beasts of burden. The effects of slavery are on both the slaves and the bosses. As the slave indulges into physical and psychological suffering, their owners are on the verge of moral degradation and suffering.


Works Cited.

Linda Brent (Harriet Ann Jacobs). Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. Written by Herself. Edited by L. Maria Child. 306 p. Boston: 1861, c1860. Published for the Author, UNC-Chapel Hill

Sojourner Truth. The Narrative of Sojourner Truth. Dictated by Sojourner Truth (ca.1797-1883); edited by Olive Gilbert; Appendix by Theodore D. Weld. Boston: 1850.