12 Years a Slave: The Difference Between The Film And The Original Plot
"Twelve Years a Slave"; is a story about slavery written by Solomon Northup in 1853 and edited by David Wilson. Written in 1853, the book was filmed in 2013. Both the book and the film depict the same story of Solomon Northup, but there were lots of arguments to the differences between the book and the screen version. A part of the audience was dissatisfied by some steps made by producers to make the story more up-to-date and more of entertainment character.
The first difference between the film and the original plot is the children of Solomon Northup. According to the book, there were three of them (Margaret and Alonzo are shown in the film, whilst their daughter Elizabeth is somehow omitted). Some tragic scenes that the book does not contain are also included in the film. For instance, the murder of a slave by a sailor on the ship.
As a matter of fact, Solomon and two other slaves, Arthur and Robert, really thought about taking over the brig Orleans, but Robert was just raped by a sailor and died a bit later of smallpox "Robert was taken ill. It was soon announced that he had a small-pox. He continued to grow worse, and four days previous to our arrival in New Orleans he died.";(Northup 72) and their plan to take the ship over was scrapped.
Another scene that was added to the film is the one showing how Pastey, a woman who was another slave of Edvin Epps, asks Solomon to kill her to escape from all the difficulties and tragedies the life gave her. Solomon refused to mercy-kill her. According to the original text, Pastey was lusted by her master and hated by his wary wife. Despite she had a remarkable gift for picking cotton quickly "lightening-quick motion"; (Northup 188), it was exactly Mistress who made her husband whip her most severely. Here comes another difference. In the film, Mistress Shaw and Pastey have a conversation over tea, but that was only with the intention to give the plantation owner's wife the voice.
As for the similarities between the book and the film, there are some particular subjects that are conveyed in the movie in the same form as in the original text. For instance, in the film adaptation, as well as in the book, it is shown and mentioned numerous times that Solomon plays the violin. As he describes it himself, playing the violin is "the ruling passion of my youth"; (Northup 30). Perhaps, playing the violin is the thing that proves that even Black men, even slaves can feel. Emotions, the love of the beauty, the ability to have a good taste are the things that certainly do have people of all races and the color of the skin is of no importance. It is one of the main ideas of the book.
Still, the main idea of the whole book is, as it has been mentioned above, slavery and all the horrible things that slaves have to face and deal with, not regarding the color of their skin. Many works, both fictional and scientific, have been written on this topic, but, of course, it cannot be compared with to the narrative of a person who had to suffer from that himself. Whipping, telling off, and hunger are not all the things that slavery includes. The feeling of being kidnapped, kept by force, made the work up to the death, and the constant thinking of the family that is left somewhere far away are all the components of slavery. Working force that cannot be tired, experience any emotions and that can be sold or presented like a possession(that is slavery as it is. As Solomon himself wrote, "Daily witnesses of human suffering(listening to the agonizing screeches of a slave(beholding them writhing beneath the merciless lash(bitten and torn by dogs. These are slaves.";(Northup 201). According to Notrhup's words, slavery is the most terrible thing on this planet.
The release of Solomon was not quick, he was not able to simply climb into the carriage and leave he had to continue to serve as a slave even when his freedom was being proven. This goes to show that even as his masters were faced with his possible freedom was still a Black man and nothing more than property. Solomon's escape is, probably, one of the most interesting things covered in the whole book. First of all, it is because of the importance of showing the possibility to make things better and even escaping from slavery. The friend of Solomon, Bass, managed to write a letter to the Northup family "The letter written by Bass, directed to Parker and Perry...arrived to Saratoga in the early part of September"; (Northup 298) and after that Northup got the opportunity to be emancipated from the clutches of Edwin Epps.
The escapology of Solomon Northup is also memorable because the kidnapper was not imprisoned because of false witnesses and the racist in the courtroom. Shortly after this Solomon finally, after 12 years of being a slave, reunited with his family.
Moreover, Solomon needed a lengthy list of signatures for his freedom, a tough arduous road that he himself was unable to travel. One that must be done by a white man. All of these struggles are left out of the movie. This points out that at the time people were unaware how easily a man could be enslaved and how difficult it was to gain his rightful freedom. The movie skips right over the ordeal and takes you right home to his family.
The movie types a few words about the trial of his masters and kidnappers but only at the end of the movie. Where the book focuses the end fourth of the book towards his trials and accusers, how he himself, the victim, was unable to prosecute against the wrongs done to him. Perhaps the movie does not focus on that because it is becoming unidentifiable in todays society. In 1853 a Black man had absolutely NO rights, not even to his freedom. Where now people sue for discrimination all the time.
On the contrary, a topic that the movie covers is the emotional part of the book. In the film Northup's story is shown in many details, there are some invented facts and scenes, but that looks natural and a viewer who has not read the book will not distinguish these differences. In the movie the story is shown more emotionally (the desire of Pastey to be mercy killed, the meeting of Solomon with the family after twelve years). In the book such scenes are shown not in order to cause the catharsis and make the readers cry. There only facts are mentioned, facts which does not care about the feelings of the reader. For instance, the scene where Solomon meets the family is just mentioned in the book, it is not described precisely or in every detail. The reader is left to think and imagine while in the film this scene is shown as one of the most significant ones in the whole narrative. What is more, the living in the slave houses in the film is again shown in very realistic, but still an untrue way "unlike the houses of even the poorest free families, slave cabins weren't independent centers of family life"; (Larkin 205). That is certainly awful, but still in the movie, to attract the attention of the audience, these conditions are much worse. The book is more for unemotional awareness, while the movie, as it can be understood, stands for wakening the forgotten truth that the Black men had no rights at all, using the emotions of the audience. It cannot be told precisely that the movie conveys facts that are untrue or the scenes that are absolutely lie, these are just the different ways of letting know, informing and forcing to think. Today people are aware of their rights, freedom and the possibility to be defended by law or government, but it hasn't been always like that. Both the book and the movie state that human the rights, the ability to live the own life are the greatest gifts on Earth. "Throughout all this, Northup struggles for his freedom - and his sanity. He proves himself a keen observer of the South's "peculiar institution, and though he is victimized by it, displays an enormous capacity for empathy and love"; (Robichaux 201). For Solomon, his life was the greatest thing that he had.
Summing up, it must be stated that "Twelve Years a Slave"; is the book that makes people think of humanity. The movie and the original text are in a strong connection and the film cannot be criticized for the differences between the plot and the initial text. Both the book and the film state that the human freedom is the greatest value. A person will always find his own freedom, either physical or mental.
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