This week I finished the autobiography of Solomon Northup, which is titled 12 Years a Slave. This autobiography was mostly about Northup’s life as a slave for twelve years, after being kidnapped as a free black man. Northup before he had become a slave was a freeman in New York, and he had lived with his family. When he was kidnapped it took twelve years of toil and pain until he was rescued and set free. The autobiography itself that Northup wrote contains many contrasts, so many that it would probably take me months to note each one. Northup contrasted many things including, people, situations, etc. So how could I myself adopt Northup’s technique of using contrasts?
Before getting into this, why would I use contrasts in the first place? Contrasts are a pretty powerful literary tool, and in my opinion makes a narrative more interesting. Also in my life so far there have been quite a few instances that are worth contrasting to each other. For example maybe a contrast between two different people I know who played a role in my life, either negatively or positively. Basically I would use a contrast to make my autobiography more interesting.
Because I have now explained why I would use contrasts in my autobiography, here is an example of one of Northup’s powerful contrast’s. In Northup’s life as a slave he was owned by a few people. His first owner, named Ford was a just owner, who treated his slaves well. Northup’s last owner, named Epps, was the exact opposite of Ford. Epp’s was a terrible person who treated slaves as if they were less than animals. He was especially cruel to a slave named Patsey. Northup quite a few times in his autobiography contrasted cruel slave owners with just slave owners who treated their slaves well. He used Ford as an example of a just slave owner and Epps as an example of a cruel and evil slave owner. Even though this is only one example of Northup’s use of contrasts, I believe that this gets the point across that Northup’s autobiography was full of them.
So now, how could I adopt Northup’s technique of using contrasts? Well that is a pretty simple answer. The way I would adopt this method is by comparing situations, people, etc to each other. Of course I would have to find situations or people that are the opposite from other situations or people, but overall in my opinion it is not that difficult to adopt Northup’s method of using contrasts.
12 Years a Slave was one of the most interesting and insightful autobiographies I have read during this school year. The autobiography itself gave a great portrayal on slavery, and the evils of it. This was thanks to Northup’s powerful use of words, and literary devices including contrasts, which was the main topic of this essay. Overall I highly recommend reading this autobiography, for both educational and enjoyment purposes.