Instructor: Bridget Roche
April 11, 2014
"Reliving the Hell of Slavery"
Steve McQueen, director of the film 12 Years a Slave, uses paper as symbol, the harsh conditions of the plantation as setting, Solomon Northup as the main character who changes over the time, and compellingly long camera shots to force the audience to see slavery anew.
Particularly, McQueen uses paper as symbol to force the audience to see slavery anew. While Solomon is eating in one of the scenes, he realizes that the liquid coming out of a fruit that he is eating, it could serve him as ink to write. In this moment, Solomon starts thinking in write a letter to claim his freedom. After that, Solomon takes the risk when he is going to bring some sheets for his landlady, and he takes one sheet to write the letter. Writing is the only form of expression that he has for demand his freedom.
Paper means the only hope of Solomon to return to his freedom. Writing is the only way Solomon can reverse the abuse that is being done against him and his rights to freedom. In other words, writing on paper is the only way Solomon can communicate with his people to help him return to freedom.
Furthermore, McQueen uses the harsh conditions of the plantation as a setting that forces the audience to see slavery anew. On the Louisiana plantation depicted in the film, we see impenetrable swamps, thick with trees, and heavy overgrowth abounds. The impenetrable swamp acts as a prison border, reminding the slaves that escape is futile. There are drooping, low lying branches of willow trees everywhere on the plantation, most notable when Solomon is left hanging from one branch for an entire afternoon. The drooping...