Slavery and Alienation in “12 Years a Slave”

Slaveryand Alienation in “12 Years a Slave”

Acohesive society is the one that respects the dignity of human lifeand recognizes the diversity of people in the society. However, asociety is doomed when it fails to appreciate diversity and respecthumanity despite the racial and social differences. The movie ““12years a Slave” explores the racial segregation that marked theAmerican societies during the slavery period and the predicament ofthe slaves. The movie presents the cruelty that befell the slaves atthe mercy of the heartless white community who thought black peoplewere pieces of property to be bought and handled. The discussionabout the movie will present the extent of slavery and alienationthrough racial discrimination that took place in America during theslavery period.

Themovie is about a decent black man, Solomon Northup, born and livingas a free citizen in Saratoga Springs in New York. Solomon was ahardworking man living with his family that he loves and works toprovide for. Things take a wrong turn for Solomon when gets kidnappedafter being drugged in New York. The trickery is executed by slavetraders who lie that they will take him for music performances inWashington. However, he is chained, transported forcibly and renamedto Platt. The slave handlers give him a false description of arunaway slave from Georgia, which turns him into a slave.

Solomon,now referred to as Platt is later sold to a master named Ford to be aslave in his farm in New Orleans. The plot revolves his workingrelations with his master and a diligent slave who is known for hiscreativity. However, he is sold together with other slaves to aneighbor Epps due to cotton plague in the farms. He is treated badlyby the new master, who even rapes a female slave, Patsey, anotheralienated slave (McQueen, “12 Years a Slave”). Solomon is rescuedby a sheriff from New York who gets him back to his family afterspending 12 years in slavery, a story that gives the title to themovie (McQueen, “12 Years a Slave”).

Themovie shows how cruel the white society was towards the black peopleby treating them like properties that can be sold and transferredownership over. After kidnapping, Solomon and other slaves are sold,transported, beaten and even exchanged ownership from one master toanother. This shows the extent of inhumanity that the white communityhad over black community as exhibited by the cruel nature of thetreatment they were given. In the film, Solomon is beaten repeatedlyin many occasions while Patsey is raped and beaten by the master withno mercy (McQueen, “12 Years a Slave”). The cruelty and harshconditions towards the black people indicates the extent of abuse ofhuman rights that America exhibited during the slavery times of thecountry’s history.

Alienationin the society was based on the discrimination of theAfrican-Americans who were not considered to be part of thecommunity. The black people were therefore alienated from the verysociety they were living in. They were alienated because they werenot considered to be part of the society, apart from just being hardlaborers. It is ironical that the white people treatedAfrican-Americans as valueless creatures, yet they used them to tendto their farms and homes as hard laborers. The movie successfullypaints the picture of how life was during slavery and the extent ofalienation and inhumanity that existed against the African-Americansin the society.


McQueen,Steve, dir. 12Years a Slave.Fox Searchlight Pictures (United States), 2014, Film