12 Years a Slave

by

Solomon Northrup

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12 Years a Slave: Chapter 9 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Solomon is left standing in the blazing hot afternoon sun with his limbs bound and the noose still looped around his neck. He is tied so tightly that he can’t move into the shade. Chapin paces around anxiously, watching the road down which Tibeats departed, but he does not unbind Solomon. Solomon realizes that Chapin expects Tibeats to return shortly with even more backup, and that Chapin will have to risk his life to defend Solomon’s. During the hottest part of the day, Rachel creeps out of the house to pour some water in Solomon’s mouth.
Even though Solomon is baking in the hot sun and his skin is swelling around the tight confines of the ropes, Chapin strangely chooses to not unbind him. Chapin doesn’t seem to have cruel intentions, though. Perhaps he wants Ford to see firsthand how Solomon has been treated, or maybe he is fearful of getting involved in the situation any further.
Themes
Racism and Slavery Theme Icon
Truth and Justice Theme Icon
Much to Solomon’s relief, Ford arrives and frees Solomon from the ropes. Moments later, Tibeats and his two companions also appear and argue with Ford and Chapin, though Solomon can’t hear what they’re saying. Tibeats and his companions soon ride off again, looking unhappy. Chapin tells Solomon to sleep in the main house for the night, thinking Tibeats may try to seek revenge in the middle of the night. Solomon knows that if Tibeats murdered him even with a hundred slaves as witnesses, none of those slaves would be able to provide evidence against him.
Once again, Chapin is intent on protecting Solomon, this time by letting him sleep in the main house instead of the slave quarters for extra security. Like Ford, Chapin views Solomon as a human being whose life is valuable—but still somehow deserving of slavery. Solomon explains to the reader how, in contrast, slaves aren’t treated as humans in a court of law. The value of one white man’s story, even if fabricated, outweighs a hundred slaves’ evidence.
Themes
Racism and Slavery Theme Icon
Truth and Justice Theme Icon
In the morning, Chapin warns Solomon to stay alert around his master, knowing Tibeats is likely to harm Solomon when he least expects it. When Tibeats returns, Solomon wonders in agony why he must serve a “blood-seeking wretch” and live a miserable life. He wishes he could have died before having children, when he had less to live for. He longs for freedom, but “the bondman’s chain […] could not be shaken off.”
Even the mere thought of his children gives Solomon purpose and tenacity to make it through his enslavement alive. Solomon refers to the institution of slavery as “the bondman’s chain,” pointing back to when he found himself in chains after being drugged in Washington D.C. Although he is no longer trapped by physical chains, he is still immobilized by the heavy weight of the brutal system.
Themes
Racism and Slavery Theme Icon
Truth and Justice Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Tibeats hires Solomon out to Peter Tanner, Ford’s brother-in-law, whom Solomon immediately dislikes. Although he reads the Bible to his slaves like Ford, Tanner has a very different approach to scripture. On one particular occasion, Tanner reads his slaves averse: “And that servant, which knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes.” He tells his slaves that he is the lord the verse refers to, and that any of his slaves that disobey him will be whipped. Solomon also notes that Tanner often uses stocks to intimidate and control his slaves.
Tanner is the prime example of a slave owner who uses Christianity to justify and perpetuate slavery—he specifically quotes Luke 12:47 to scare his slaves into obeying him, even though the verse is about obeying God. In contrast, in the North, the simultaneous unfolding of the Second Great Awakening and the Abolitionist Movement meant that many people were using Christianity to prove that slavery was morally wrong and sinful before God.
Themes
Racism and Slavery Theme Icon
Christianity Theme Icon
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