12 Years A Slave movie analysis

A certain group of people's knowledge and personality are defined by their customs, musical tastes, culinary traditions, linguistic preferences, and social mores. The common social and behavioral norms are another way to describe culture. Cultural diversity is a way of acknowledging and respecting the differences between people. These distinctions can be made on the basis of sex preference, social standing, race, age, and gender. Multiculturalism, which is a collection of diverse people from many societies, is another name for cultural diversity. The topic of cultural variety in the film Twelve Years a Slave will be covered in this essay. “12 Years A Slave” is an exciting story of a black man who is at liberty kidnapped from New York and traded into ruthless slavery in the mid-1850s in Louisiana, and the inspirational story of his despairing struggle to go back to his household. Solomon Northup is an educated black man with a passion and talent for music who lives with his family in Saratoga, New York. One time when his wife and children family are out of town, two men approach him and claim to be event promoters.

Solomon reaches an agreement to travel with them as he plays the fiddle while the two men perform. However, Solomon Northup awakens and finds out that he has been drugged. This is after partaking a drink with the conmen and it later dawns to him that he is being transported to be a slave in the South. His efforts to prove that he is a free man and that he has papers to prove that fall on deaf ears. He, therefore, schemes for his escape but unfortunately he is blocked at every at every opportunity. He is traded to William Ford, a friendly mill proprietor who recognizes and falls in love with Solomon’s thoughtful nature. Nevertheless, Ford has to trade him to a cruel master. Solomon is subjected to horrifying brutality together with other slaves. Days turn into weeks, weeks into months and months into years but Solomon still holds onto his dream of going back home. He piles slips of stolen paper in his fiddle and comes up with l ink that is natural. He uses this to pen down a letter. But this is blocked by many challenges and therefore the scheme fails. Declining to abandon hope, Solomon has to watch helplessly as other slaves succumb to violence and humiliating emotional abuse. He learns that he has to take far-fetched risks, and rely on the most unlikely people if by any chance he ever wants to recover his freedom and reunite with his wife and children.

Cultural Ethnicity

The race was a very important social definer in the film 12 years a slave. Through the race, power and control of an individual were defined. The white men were always at the top of the order followed by their wife, children, male slaves and lastly and most certainly least respected were the female slaves. Both white and black women received unwanted and unwarranted sexual attacks from their masters. Women of all races and social classes lacked many fundamental rights needed to break the patriarchal reign in the colonial south. Women’s struggles for power and control were seen throughout 12 Years a Slave alongside the hardships of Solomon as he fights for his freedom.

Social Status

The society was divided into upper, lower, illiterate, and the literate social classes. The social status of the African Americans was mainly the lower and the illiterate classes. Therefore, they were subjected to traumatic experiences in the hands of white masters. Northup through the movie 12 years a slave, brings out how the social status was at the time. African American were subjected to slavery. There were lots of inhumane treatment by beatings and torture that were carried out by overseers and masters. The lower class subjects were separated from their families and their women exposed to sexual exploitation as slave women. One African American woman Eliza knew she was a property to her master and he could do with as he pleased and even raped her at several incidences in the movie. Not all men acted in the same way as Master Epps towards female and male slaves. These were men were like Master Ford and Bass who showed slaves respect (in the sense that they were humans). Ford showed Solomon kindness and forgiveness when he gifted him with a violin and saved him from the wrath of Tibetans.

Female slaves received the same kind of abuse as male slaves without the same kinds of benefits of passes (being able to travel outside of the plantation of errands or on Sundays). Female slaves were not only viewed as property but free objects for sexual advances. Patsey was introduced as a hardworking slave, she picked the most cotton on Edwin Epps’s plantation and was in constant fear of her master’s sexual advances

Sexual Orientation

In this hard times, the sexual orientation of most men was they were attracted to women. Master Shaw is attracted to Harriet, a slave woman, and she agrees to the master’s demand of affection and fidelity as long as it continues to help her position. A comparable relationship was seen between Eliza and her master. Eliza was therefore retained as a mistress who is a slave for nine years.

Patsey feared the sexual drive of Master Epps but the wrath of his wife, Mistress Epps, caused a lot of issues within the plantation. Mistress Epps realized her husband had sexually driven feelings towards Patsey and the only way she could definitely oppose her was by instilling fear in all of the slaves. She denied Patsey food and soap, this made Patsey feel like an animal. By day she had to work in the fields for her master and at night she dreaded the inevitable assault on her body from her master. This narrative is not singular in its occurrence. Master viewed their slaves as property and had the right to use them as they pleased. There is a scene in the movie that shows Master Epps raping Patsy and she just laid there. Protests and screaming could have only caused her more harm so she, like many slaves, took the torture and found a way to continue on. At one point she begged Solomon to kill her. This willingness to die was one of the only ways Patsey could take control of her life. She saw it as a decision she could make and not have to consult a mistress or master. This is an extreme case of how slave women found an agency in their lives on the plantations.


There are different women portrayed throughout the movie that shared dynamic stories of women in the colonial south. These women were mistresses, servants, slaves and victims but they all share a common enemy of the master. Even though the mistress was above the slaves she did not have a say in the running of the plantation. Mistresses only way of power in the eyes of the law were if they had slaves previous to the marriage. These slaves would often be given to women as gifts but in the case of Mistress Epps, she came from a lower class status. She most likely did not have property so she lacked any form of legal power. Mistresses did have powers over their slaves, they had the ability to order them to do as they pleased but could not have a say in whether a slave could be sold unless her husband agreed.

Gender is well represented as a cultural diversity. Like race, gender outlined the power and control a person could have. Emily, Eliza's daughter, is predestined to be traded as an upmarket girl for sexual labor in the slave market. Patsey, another slave woman is a victim of both her mistress and her master. The master assaults her sexually while the white mistress subjects her to physical and psychological mistreatment.

My Culture, Identity, and Biases

The movie serves a crucial part in the today’s society. People are reminded of the ugly past that women and African Americans were going through in the past in the American society as a whole. In the movie, the viewer is reminded of a system of slavery that was manifested in the cultural aspect of the American culture. Slavery had become so terrifyingly unremarkable, even to some of its primary victims. The movie achieves a remarkable degree of success as an abolitionist indictment against slavery.

In my culture today some of the cultural diversity still persist. There exist stereotypes in the society that still use race to divide the society. I encounter racism in my culture in everyday life. This same racism fueled slave trade in the past. Therefore, racism cannot be seen as an issue of the past as many people presume it to be. Systems of biases still carry on in the society with injustice being evident just like it was rooted in the American South.


Cultural diversity is evident in the film 12 years a slave. Sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, and social status apply in several scenes in the film. Racism is still existent in the society and we have an obligation to address it in our culture, families, churches, schools, and communities. The systems need to be changed and stop treating people in terms of gender, education, income, or race. Everyone has to be treated equally and therefore we must act as the role models in the society.


McQueen, S., Pitt, B., Gardner, D., Kleiner, J., Ridley, J., & Northup, S. (2015). 12 years a slave. Sydney, N.S.W: Masterpiece.

Baer, J.-M., British Council., & British Council. (2004). Cultural diversity. Lonon: British Council.

Northup, S. (2016). 12 Years A Slave. S.L.: Thompson Carlton.

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