Solomon Northup was a free black man who was kidnapped and sold into slavery by white men. He was torn from his family and his freedom and forced to live as a slave. His autobiography is titled Northup and if you would like to become well versed with the small details of his life I would recommend reading it.
Northup had something in common with another slave he knew who names was Eliza, in that they had both been separated from their children by slavery. Eliza’s children were taken from her and sold to a man who lived far away. Northup and Elisa had both been through a lot losing their children, but they reacted very differently to their situations. Eliza was crippled with grief, she never really worked as hard again and stayed in despair. She ultimately could not bear it and died. Northup on the other hand missed his kids and he was determined to get back to them.
One reason that Northup’s reaction was so different from Eliza’s was that he was the one taken forced into slavery very suddenly and he was so busy thinking about his situation for the first few weeks that his grief was secondary on his mental agenda. He was so focused on escaping that he didn’t think about the possibility of not seeing his family again. In other words, he did not have the luxury of grief.
Eliza was originally the slave of a rich man who treated her fairly and, while little is known about him, seemed above average in his respect for her. But like so many others, he got into debt and was forced to sell his slaves. Eliza was distraught because of the way that they were separated. The separation was not because of a dislike for her child, rather the opposite. The trader absolutely refused to sell her, saying that “there were heaps of men that would pay good money for her when she’s older.”
Northup’s mindset was that of a free man, one with no master, and no man to rule over him. He didn’t believe that it was “just the way it is”. He was sure he had been wronged and that gave him the determination to keep up hope of escape. Eliza was used to being a slave. She wasn’t hopeful that her situation would get any better, so she fell into despair. She had her spirit and soul broken down whereas Northup was still feisty, or ready to fight back for his freedom, which is a good quality, but not for the slave’s masters, for them he was like a horse, useless if untrained.
I personally believe one of the biggest differences of why their attitude to ever seeing their children again was because Northup never lost hope of seeing his children again. Where as Eliza fell into despair, she had been a slave so long she knew what happened when you try to get anything our way, lashes. I think if Eliza had lived life as a free person than she most likely would also have hope.
He stays strong through most of the book, only at one or two moments does he do something stupid, even under the incredible pressure he stays calm and collected. This pressure of course being the pressure of being separated from his family, being forced into hard work and being taken far away on a ship, from his children.
His life is put in very large amounts of danger and he has to save himself from it, though he would like to mourn for his children necessity demands otherwise.