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The Critique of the 12 Years a Slave Movie versus Book


The drama 12 Years a Slave (2013) is based on the personal memoirs of Solomon Northup who lived in pre-Civil War America. Steven McQueen, the director of the movie, tried to depict important events of the Northup life being a slave. However, as well as the majority of the films based on the true story, the movie could misinterpret real facts that were presented in the book. Therefore, this paper will discuss the differences between the memoirs of Solomon Northup and the picture 12 Years a Slave.

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12 Years a Slave Book VS Movie

Because the presented movie is based on a true story, it delivers all the basic features of the book written by Northup. Nevertheless, the reading of the memoirs shows that several crucial scenes and stories were distorted or mistreated by the director of the movie. First, the picture depicts that the violin was given to Northup by Ford who was the owner of the plantation. However, in the book, the author did not mention a person who had given the violin. It is possible that Solomon was able to buy the violin for the money he earned at the plantation (Davies). Additionally, there is no scene where the main character crashed the violin after whipping Patsey who disobeyed Epps’s order.

Second, there are several notable differences in the images of characters and the relationships between them. McQueen shows Ford as a moral and just person who does not use the power and whip without a case contrary to the memoirs where he is as cruel as other slave owners. In the book, Patsey dreams that one day she will be free; she believes that goodness exists in the world. Conversely, the movie highlights her as a depressive and despondent person who asks Solomon to kill her. The film does not provide the life path of Patsey, which is significantly interesting according to the book Also, Ford sold Solomon to Epps to rescue him from Tibeats.

However, the memoirs state that Ford sold Northup to Tibeats. A significant difference regarding the transportation of prisoners is presented in the movie (Davies). It shows that all prisoners were just keeping their heads down during the trip. On the contrary, the book tells the story of how the prisoners planned the riot on the ship. The relationships between Epps and Solomon are simply brutal because the slave owner hates Northup. However, in the memoirs, their relationships are more developed and complex.

Third, a visible diversity between the book and the movie touches on the theme of the liberation of Northup from slavery. In the book, the family of Northup found out what happened to him. The man on the ship agreed to send a letter to Northup’s family. When the friends received a letter from Solomon, they asked the governor of New York to help them find Northup. However, they did not know the exact location of his enslavement, so the authorities could not help them. In the movie, the family of the main character was convinced that Northup died, and only after a couple of years they received a letter from Solomon sent by Samuel Bass.

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Also, unlike in the story from the book, in the movie, Northup’s friends came and easily released Solomon. In the memoirs, it took more than five months to free Solomon (Northup). There was a lot of paperwork to prove that Northup was a free man from the North. Moreover, because Solomon did not tell anyone his name and identity, his companions were forced to find Bass firstly. Despite the presented diversities, the movie received many awards and good comments from the reviewers.

12 Years a Slave Essay Conclusion

To conclude, the drama 12 Years a Slave is based on a true story; it delivers all the basic features of the book written by Solomon Northup. However, several crucial scenes were distorted or mistreated by the director of the movie. The story of the liberation of Solomon Northup is highly simplified in the picture unlike in the memoirs. Also, important characters of the book such as Patsey, Ford, and Bass are underdeveloped in the film.

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