October 3, 2014
Analysis of 12 Years a Slave
The entire story of 12 Years a Slave is terribly sad. To imagine having lived in freedom only to be sold into slavery, it’s terrifying. There was nothing Salomon could do to escape the grasp of the 19th century American South. It was a completely different world from the North. Slaves were valuable; plantations would collapse without them. Emancipation meant a huge financial loss and they would do whatever possible to make sure that didn’t happen.
The movie reminds me of the Stanford prison experiment was an experiment conducted in 1971 by Philip Zimbardo that studied the psychological effects of becoming a prisoner or prison guard. The guards enforced authoritarian measures and ultimately subjected some of the prisoners to psychological torture. Many of the prisoners passively accepted psychological abuse and, at the request of the guards, readily harassed other prisoners who attempted to prevent it. The experiment even affected Zimbardo himself, who, in his role as the superintendent, permitted the abuse to continue. Two of the prisoners quit the experiment early and the entire experiment was abruptly stopped after only six days, not making it the two weeks it was expected to go (Wikipedia). It’s interesting how quickly the participants adapted to their roles.
This experiment seems very similar to the roles that slaves and their owners played in the South. Even though he turned out to be a sellout, I really liked the insight related by Armsby, the white man who was working on the plantation in the field with the slaves. He had previously been an overseer and he talks about how no one can work day in