The narrative by Solomon Northup entitled Twelve Years a Slave is a true account of a free colored man who is kidnapped and later sold into slavery. In the narrative, he gives an account of his nightmarish experience with slavery. Initially, a white man named William Prince Ford, who according to Northup treated him well, owned him. After he became bankrupt, William Prince Ford sold him to John Tibaut who Northup describes as being a cruel person (Northup 21). Surprisingly, Ford still partially owned Northup since the debts that he had were lesser than his worth. Northup narrates how at one time Tibaut attempted to whip him and when he resisted, Tibaut attempted to burn him alive or kill him without giving him a fair trial. His colleague, Anderson Chaffin, later rescued him. Following another altercation, Northup was yet again sold off to another plantation owner, Edwin Epps, where he is enslaved for ten years. Just like Tibaut, Edwin Epps is also cruel. On several occasions, he leased Northup to other farms, where he would be given the role of a supervisor to other slaves. Although he attempts to escape on a number of occasions, he is always recaptured. In the end, he is rescued by William Prince Ford. In contrast, Mary Rowlandsons narrative titled The Sovereignty and Goodness of God describes the problems that a Native American, Mary Rowlandson, went through in 1676 during the King Philips War (Rowlandson 14). The narrative is a day-to-day description of Rowlandson's experiences from the moment she was captured to her return date. She views the things she went through in connection to God and the Holy Scripture. She expresses her capture as Gods plan to test her faith, a trial she should show steadfast faith in God because it is only through this that she would not only survive but also abide by the Puritan society values that required a true Christian woman to have faith in God. In general, Rowlandson captivity experience offers a specific European, puritan female viewpoint of the Native Americans. Mary Rowlandson and Solomon Northup experienced captivity because they belonged to a race, gender, and identity different from those of their captors.
Firstly, in the two narratives by Rowlandson and Northup, the protagonists of the story are captured and enslaved because they belonged to a different race from that of their captors. Mary Rowlandson was born in England. A few years later, Mary together with her parents relocated to what is currently known as New England. Her father was amongst the richest people in Lancaster. In 1656, she married Joseph Rowlandson, a reverend and settled to start their family. However, the early America being fraught with peril, war ensued between English settlers and Native Americans, Mary Rowlandson together with her children were abducted and taken as prisoners. The war between the American Indians and English settlers, which is commonly known as the King Philips War took place after individuals from the two races started to look down upon each other. Like the Wampanoag Indians, Native Americans practiced subsistence farming. They were used to having communal lands. However, things changed when the English came in and settled in Lancaster, the current Massachusetts, they brought with them their diverse culture. For instance, they reared cattle and owned individual parcels of land. Initially, the Native Americans had no problem with the neighboring English. However, after the English took over the control of land and started to rear livestock, damaging the crops planted by the Native Americans and hindering new plants from being planted. This angered the Native Americans and King Philip incited numerous American Indian nations to go to war against the English settlers together with their allies. As the war ensued, the American Indians raided plantations and captured the English people, who they could sell off. Mary Rowlandson together with her children were captured and taken far west, towards Indian settlements. Therefore, Rowlandson experience captivity because she was English while her captors were American Indians, captivity was based on racism. Like Rowlandson, Northup belonged a minority race. He was black while his captors were white. White people who owned plantations sought work force from slaves sold to them by slave merchant. In 1841, Northup bumped on two white men and after chitchatting, they decided to offer him a lucrative job provide he was willing to accompany them to Washington D.C. However, he was never offered a job and finds himself in the captivity of a slave trader named James H. Burch (Northup 35).
Secondly, Northup and Rowlandson experience captivity from the perspective of gender. Plantation owners preferred to have male slaves, as they were more productive than their female counterparts were. It is for this reason that Northup was captured and sold off as slave. On the other hand, when American Indians raided the settlements of the English settlers specifically that of Mary's husband, they did not find him there as he had travelled to meet the governor. To this end, Mary Rowlandson and her children were captured and driven far west to be prisoners at the American Indians plantations.
Thirdly, the identity of Rowlandson and Northup's captors also led to their captivity. The white men who lured Northup to his captivity and majority of those who owned plantations, were cruel, and viewed colored people as a source of cheap labor. They subjected Northup to inhumane acts, for instance, when Northup demands that he be set free, he is whipped and even threatened with being burned alive and death without fair trial. In the same vein, the American Indians were also cruel. They devised ill strategies that involved capturing the English settlers, who they later sold off as prisoners or exchanged for other valuables. It is for this reason that Mary Rowlandson was captured by the American Indians. Therefore, in the eyes of their captors, Northup and Rowlandson were a source of quick cash. They did not regard them as equal human beings who needed freedom and fair treatment.
The cruel as well as inhumane experiences Rowlandson went through in the hands of her captors because of her diversity were perceived by her as Gods temptation to gauge the extent of faith. To her she should needed to show steadfast faith in God because it is only through this that she would not only survive but also abide by the Puritan society values that required a true Christian woman to have faith in God. Rowlandson's narrative is, therefore an account of the bad experiences that she faced amongst the non-believers for eleven weeks as well as her deliverance from them. Although the narrative authored by Rowlandson was later made public after some friends saw it would benefit the afflicted, Rowlandson did not envisage how the American society would receive her work, as it was a diary meant for her personal use. On the same note, Twelve Years a Slave is a slave narrative that was determined by the authors firsthand experience as a slave. While in captivity, Northup endured various cruel and inhumane experiences, which inspired him to write a narrative that would denounce the evil practice of slavery. He seeks to communicate to the American society that slavery is a moral cancer, that all humans are born equal and should be treated as such, mans cruelty to man, as well as harmful impacts of slavery on both the servant and the master among others. Northup seems to have envisaged a cold reception from the American society. He also envisages that majority of the American society being white would pour cold water on his attempt to detail the evil act of slavery. To prove to cynics that his work is not a work of fiction, but a true account, Northup provides facts, providing names of slave traders, plantations owners, fellow slaves, and seems to have a mastery of geography.
Northup resided with his family in upstate New York. He was captured and sold off as a captive into the Red River area of Louisiana a region that had harsh climatic conditions; together with his fellow slaves, they use to work in cotton plantations for the entire day despite the hot climatic conditions of Louisiana. On the other hand, Mary Rowlandson was born and bred in England, although they later relocated to a region that is currently known as New England. By the time of her capture, she resided with her husband in Massachusetts. This area did not have harsh climatic conditions owing to the agricultural activities being conducted by the English settlers. However, when she was captured, she was taken into the desert and towards Indian settlements, an area that had harsh climatic conditions. In the two narratives, Northup and Rowlandson use space to reflect the harsh realities of captivity. For example, the two authors mention crossing rivers in a number of occasions. Repeatedly, Northup and his fellow slaves sing a song that mentions River Jordan, Went down to the river Jordan, (Northup 134).The mention of rivers normally sent classified messages concerning the audacity for fleeing, crossing over the northward, Ohio, or Mississipi. The Northup's stepping in singing the song together with other slaves is additional assertion of his statement upon being put into captivity, I dont want to survive; I want to live. This statement makes it evident that while Northup is communicating rebellion, the image of crossing river symbolize a dynamic community, which is hopeful yet in the verge of losing hope. Northup participation in the song is a clear indication that he has become part of the said community, signaling his hopeless also. The chorus or the song, roll, Jordan roll, (Northup 134) signifies the unstoppable power of water, as well as the ensuing liberation, as a force. despite the fact that they were enslaved when they first crossed the river, crossing again meant that they would be going in the opposite direction, home or the water would set them free, regardless of whether it would involve passing over a physical river to liberation, or probably, as in death, crossing over the Styx river into death.
Similarly, crossing river finds the same usage in Rowlandson's account. In her journey to captivity, Rowlandson passes over a river to meet King Philip (Rowlandson 17). When in King Philip's settlement, she is forced to sew for the Indians to get food. Moreover, she crosses the river for a second time on her northward journey, which gives her hope that she is being returned home. However, the Indians change their direction and head south proceeding toward the Connecticut River rather that continuing east towards freedom. Further, they cross Baquaug River when she bumps upon messengers who inform her that she should proceed to Wachuset where American Indians would deliberate her likelihood of returning home. Rowlandson heads to Wachuset where she talks to King Philip who promises to set her free. To this end, just like in Northup's slave narrative, crossing rivers meant either going into bondage or getting freedom. Passing rivers on her onward journey meant going into captivity while doing the same in her return journey meant finding liberation. To this end, Rowlandson uses rivers to signify both loss of hope and audacity to retain freedom, the same river that enslaves is the same one that sets one free.
The narratives, Twelve Years a Slave and The Sovereignty and Goodness of God, by Solomon Northup and Mary Rowlandson respectively are inspired by experiences of the two authors when they were for belonging to a race, gender, and identity different from those of their captors. Northup and Rowlandson were racially diverse from their captors. Northup was black while his captors were white. On the other hand, Rowlandson was English while his captors were American Indians. Further, gender an...
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