12 Years a Slave

by

Solomon Northrup

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Free papers

Lightweight and easy to steal, Solomon’s free papers symbolize his identity as a free black man; like his freedom, they proved flimsy and easy to take from him. Solomon’s arguments with the Washington D.C…

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Chains

The chains in which Solomon finds himself restrained when he first wakes up after being drugged symbolize the near impossibility of escaping slavery. Just as chains are made up of several strong links that make…

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Whip

The whip that is used to control and punish the slaves symbolizes the dehumanization of black slaves by white slave owners. Throughout the narrative, slaves are frequently treated as beasts of burden, like workhorses—first, dressed…

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