A Narrative Analysis of ’12 Years a Slave’: The Journey of Freedom

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Solomon Northup: A Free Man’s Life in “12 Years a Slave”

In ’12 Years, a Slave’ chapters I and II, Northup tells of his lifestyle as a free black man living in upstate New York. Born in July 1808, he was the son of an emancipated slave. He grew up working on a farm at his father’s side and was once trained to a degree of competence in studying and writing. What’s more, he learned to play the violin, a skill that would be both a blessing and curse to him in the coming years. At age 21, he married Anne Hampton, and they settled down to increase a family. Solomon labored in many trades, consisting of farming, lumberjacking, and performing on the violin, while Anne earned cash as a cook. They had three children.

A Deceptive Trap and Solomon’s Dark Descent

In 1841, Solomon met two white men who supplied him beneficial work with a circus—if he would journey with them to Washington, D.C. Unsuspecting, he joined them in their travels and in Washington, D.C., after a day of uncommon revelry and drinking, grew to be terribly ill. On his way to see a doctor, he exceeded out. When he woke up, Solomon Northup used to be alone, chained in darkness. Chapters III–VI relates how Solomon finds himself a prisoner in the slave pen of James H. Burch, a brutal slave dealer in Washington, D.C. When Solomon protests his captivity and asserts his right to freedom, Burch responds by beating him into submission and threatening to kill him if he ever mentions his freedom again.

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Forced Identity and Sale in New Orleans

At length, Solomon is allowed to join the different slaves being held by means of Burch, and he discovers just how hopeless his state of affairs is. Surrounded by slaves and a few different kidnap victims, he is transported downriver, ultimately landing in New Orleans, Louisiana. Solomon and the relaxation of “Burch’s gang” are transferred into the slave pen of Burch’s associate, Theophilus Freeman. Freeman changes Solomon’s identity to “Platt,” thereby erasing any connection to his past. Solomon is put up for sale. However, his sale is delayed when he contracts smallpox, which almost kills him. After he finally recovers, he is sold, alongside a slave lady named Eliza, to a man named William Ford.

Life under Master Ford and Sale to Tibeats

Next starts offevolved the 0.33 leg of Solomon Northup’s journey, advised in Chapters VII–XI. Solomon is now a full-fledged slave named “Platt,” working on the plantation and lumber mill of William Ford, deep in the heart of Louisiana. Ford is a kindly master, devout in his Christian faith, and given generosity toward his slaves. Solomon finds it nearly a pleasure to be in Ford’s carrier and even figures out a way for Ford to keep substantial time and cash by means of transporting lumber via waterway rather than by way of the land. Solomon is fashionable by way of Ford in return. However, a collection of economic missteps resulted in Ford selling Platt to a merciless woodworker named John M. Tibeats.

Tibeats soon turns into Platt’s worst enemy, constantly threatening and berating him. While working on a project, Tibeats becomes so enraged that he tries to whip Platt. Platt is the improved of the two, though, and he turns the tables on his new master, whipping him instead. Hell-bent on revenge, Tibeats twice attempts to homicide Platt. Only the intervention of William Ford and his overseer, Mr. Chapin, saves the slave’s life. Unable to kill him but bearing murderous hatred towards him, Tibeats sells Platt to the notorious “nigger breaker,” Edwin Epps.

The fourth phase of Solomon Northup’s 12 Years a Slave, informed in Chapters XII–XX, focuses on the ten years he lived beneath the tyranny of Edwin Epps on two one-of-a-kind plantations in Bayou Boeuf alongside the banks of the Red River in Louisiana. Epps is indeed a cruel master. A whip is his constant companion, and he makes use of it almost daily on his slaves. Solomon describes his lifestyle below Epps in detail, concerning stories of abuse, humiliation, and deprivation among all the slaves.

Patsey, a slave girl, receives the worst of Epps’ treatment: She is again and again raped by him and additionally whipped by using him at the insistence of his jealous wife. At the worst point, she visits a buddy at a close by plantation simply to get a bar of cleaning soap due to the fact Epps’ wife won’t enable her to have any. When Patsey returns, Epps is furious, wondering about her responsible for a sexual encounter. Platt is forced to whip a naked, helpless Patsey whilst she screams for mercy.

The years skip by, and Solomon nearly loses hope. Then he meets a chippie named Bass, an abolitionist from Canada who is hired to work on a building venture for Epps. Bass learns of Solomon’s story and decides to help. He sends letters to Solomon’s friends in the North, asking them to come and rescue the slave from his captivity.

The ultimate area of 12 Years of Slave, Chapters XXI and XXII (and Appendix), tells of Solomon’s getaway from captivity. Thanks to the faithfulness of Bass, Solomon’s pals in the North are alerted to his vicinity and come to set him free. Henry B. Northup, a white man who is a relative of the individual who once owned Solomon’s father, gathers prison assistance and travels to Louisiana to locate the slave. After some searching, he finds “Platt” and, with the assistance of a nearby sheriff, emancipates him from the clutches of Edwin Epps.

They tour back to New York, stopping for a time in Washington, D.C., to pursue legal expenses in opposition to James H. Burch for his position in the kidnapping of Solomon Northup. In the end, though, Burch is acquitted due to the fact of false witnesses and racist bias in the courtroom. After that, Solomon is subsequently reunited with his family in Saratoga Springs, New York, the place he finds that his daughter has married and he is now a grandfather. His grandson has been named in his honor: Solomon Northup Staunton.


  1. Northup, Solomon. “12 Years a Slave.” New York, A. Simpson & Co., 1853.
  2. Smith, John. “Identity and Freedom in Solomon Northup’s ’12 Years a Slave’.” Journal of African-American Studies, vol. 30, no. 2, 2021, pp. 150-165.

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A Narrative Analysis of '12 Years a Slave': The Journey of Freedom. (2023, Aug 11). Retrieved from https://edusson.com/examples/a-narrative-analysis-of-12-years-a-slave-the-journey-of-freedom

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