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Essay: 12 Years a Slave: The Life Story of Solomon Northup in Slavery

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  • Published: 1 April 2019*
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  • Tags: Slavery essays

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Bookreport 5H/5V/V6 Your name: Stijn ten Doeschate Group: 5vD Teacher:WGN    Date:  5 march 2018


Title and title explanation The title is 12 Years a Slave. This is the title because Solomon Northup was kidnapped and put into slavery for 12 years.

Author + some short information about him/her

Any connection to the book? The writer is Solomon Northup himself. He was born in New York on the 10th of July 1808. He was kidnapped in the year 1841. He was appealed to Washington D.C with a job offer. However he was kidnapped in Washington D.C because slavery was legal in that state. He was sold to a man who had a plantation in New Orleans. He was used as slave for 12 years. A year after his release he wrote the book 12 Years a Slave.

Publication (where, year of 1st edition, year of your edition) The first publication was in the year 1853 in New York. The publisher was Derby and Miller. Mine is form the year 2014. The publisher is David Wilson.

Number of pages 248

Reason(s) of choice

*”I had to read a book” is not a valid reason The subject slavery wasn’t a high topic in history class in school. We were learned about it existence but the details were not there. So at the end i didn’t knew much about it. Of course when you read the title you know he subject. And because I wanted to know more about this subject appeared this to be the right choice.

CONTENTS (inhoud)

Short summary of plot

(max. 25 lines) in your own words Solomon Northup is a man who lives in Ney York. He has a lovely family with a wife, two daughters one son.

His wife has the name Anne, the two daughters are named Elizabeth and Margaret and his son is called by the name Alonzo. Two man give Salomon a job offer in a circus. He has to play the violin (because he is very good at it). The men take him to Washington D.C where they dope him up. He was kidnapped, sold an transferred to New Orleans where worked as a slave for different owners under the name of Platt. The last one, Mister Epps, was a horrible man. He treated his slaves as animals and called them his property. When one day a carpenter came to the plantation to build a building with the help of the slaves, everything changes. His name is Bas. Bas is against the slavery and the way people treat these slaves. Salomon is able to tell is life story to bas and begs him to send a letter to his family. A few months later he was picked up by 2 man. A lawyer called mister Waddil and a mister Northup. He was brought back to his house and family after 12 years of slavery.

(Short) Character description of main character(s) Salomon Northup. A kind man with a lot of talent for playing the violin. He used to be free but was kidnapped in Washington DC. Served as a slave for 12 years.

William ford. His bought Salomon first and was kind to all his slaves. He looked after Salomon. William couldn’t hold Salomon as a slave because he got in a fight with a guard called John Tibeats who now wanted to kill him so he was forced to transfer him to Mister Epps.

Mister Epps was a mad man. He hated black people. He handles is slaves as animals and called them his property. His ego was so big that any kind of contradiction would result in whips from the lash.

Patsey is a also a slave from mister Epps. Salomon en Patsey have a strong bond. Patsey is being raped by mister Epps. But nevertheless she stays strong and goes on in her life.

Bas is the carpenter who is against the slavery. He helps Salomon with sending he letters to his relatives.

Setting: where + importance The story takes place in the United states. Important to mention is that not in all states slavery is legal. For example Ney York, where Salomon lives. But when you get to a state where slavery is legal, you’re in danger as a black man. So the different states have a important role in the story because of the law the obey.

Setting: when + importance Between 1841 and 1853. The time setting is really important because its just before the American civil war. And you can read that through the story without knowing the time setting because more and more people are against slavery. And even people who have slaves are treating them good. But still there are people who hate black people and treat them wrong. You can also feel already that those two opinions about slaves clash to each other.


Theme(s) + arguments why Racism and slavery. Through the whole book is Racism and slavery the main theme. Black people were seen as “lowly people’. The even got silly nicknames as boy and ni**er. There were always seen as en certain group with a minority.

Time-span / chronology + importance The story is written chronological. Because its an autobiography I think its normal that it is chronological because he simply tells his life story as a slave. If he wrote it with flashback and so it would make it less easy to understand.

Ending (open / closed / ?) Why did the author choose this ending? The ending is closed. The book is a autobiography so the author simply wanted to tell his life story. An open ending wouldn’t be appropriate.


Could the book have happened for real? Yes/no + arguments This book happened for real. It’s a autobiography written by the man himself. He lived as a slave for 12 years and this book is about his own story he lived by himself.

I share the values (normen en waarden) presented in the book

Yes/no + arguments No I Hate racism. I just simply hope that in the future this sort of bad things based on racism will never happen again. I can’t even imagine that zo many people found in normal at the time.

The structure of the book is clear and useful (chronology, flashbacks/flash-forwards etc.)

Yes/no + arguments Yes its useful because it makes the development of the main person even more clear.

The book is well-written (style)

Yes/no + arguments

*Be careful: no/very difficult words or long-windedness are not valid arguments to use. This book is maybe too well written. The way he describes the horrors made me ill sometimes. You won’t believe your eyes during some moments in the book. Its also really (sort off) beautiful to see how he manages to stay so temperate through the events of his story.

The book taught me something.

Yes/no + arguments That slavery is a big deal. I can also understand that still people have strong feelings about this horrible event. I can also understand more that people totally hate this silly nicknames form back then.

The book is original.

Yes/no + arguments The book is totally original because its his story and there will be no one like it. And because it really happened made the book even more stunning. Its not even based on a true story, it is the true story!

The book amused, gripped or moved me.

Yes/no + arguments It gripped me completely. All these horrors, all this pain. You are feeling bad and sorry while reading the book. The one thing that came up in my head most of the time was that I felt so lucky to live in this time period in this save country.


INFORMATION ABOUT FINDING AND USING IT – Do not copy the text directly into this document because it will be regarded as plagiarism in the ELO! Hand in a printed version of the review/analysis 2 weeks before your speaking exam, together with a printed version of all your bookreports.

– A good review or analysis might come from one of the reference books in our OLC, newspapers like The Guardian, the Independent or the New York Times, or from a literary critic. A good review also gives “deeper” thoughts or opinions about the book.

Add Link (or PDF) to the review/analysis here https://www.nieuwwij.nl/opinie/recensie-van-boek-12-jaar-slaaf/

Compare review-own opinion

Did you discover anything new?

Is it useful for your exam? His opinion is the same as mine. He was given the same feelings like: how were we people able to do such thing to each other?  Also this reader notices how temperate the writer is during the book.

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