I recently concluded my reading of Twelve Years a Slave, the autobiography by Solomon Northup, whom I wrote about before. If you’ve read the book, you would understand the heart-wrenching truths held within it’s pages.It was hard to read, personally, because I could almost see all the things he wrote about, as would many other readers. This book is definitely not for the ‘faint of heart’. My assignment this time relates to the way he described one scenario, and compared it to others. The question is: “How could I adopt Northup’s technique of using contrasts?”

There are a couple examples of contrast I can give. The biggest of the two is the Northern half of America vs. the Southern half. In the North, where Northup lived, Men and women of all races were treated as equals. They all had the same undeniable liberties bestowed upon them by God, and no one could take that away from them. The south, on the other hand, made it clear that people of African origin had little more importance than that of a mule. Sad as it is, they weren’t seen as men, nor did they have the rights of one. Though he described the difference way better, you can start to get some idea of the contrasts presented.

The second example I’ll mention is when Christmas week was upon the South. During the rest of the year, slaves would be worked hard, picking cotton, chopping logs, and other activities the owners would not want to do, without getting any of the products they had worked for. When Christmas came, however, it seemed that for a short time, there was some equality in the South. They feasted together, danced together, and were treated well, without any whips present.

So, returning to the question at hand, how do I adopt Northup’s style of using contrasts? Well, I would start by trying to apply other strengths that Northup had in regards to writing. First, he had a good memory and was keen in observation. This is a major part of how he used contrasts in his book. After all, how do you compare two things if you know nothing about them? This is what I would work on in order to use Northup’s level of comparison. It’s definitely a short answer, but it is the one that will work for me.


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