Twelve Years a Slave (2013 film)

Twelve Years a Slave (2013 film) Irony

Brown and Hamilton Betray Solomon (Situational Irony)

Solomon trusts Brown and Hamilton, the two white men who offer him a job playing the violin in the circus. After traveling to Washington, the three men enjoy a pleasant and lavish dinner and Solomon thanks them for their generosity. Following the dinner, however, we learn that Brown and Hamilton have drugged Solomon in order to sell him into slavery. What has seemed like an exceptionally beneficial opportunity and business arrangement was, in fact, a hideous betrayal.

We Know Solomon was Free (Dramatic Irony)

One of the more excruciating elements of Solomon's enslavement is the fact that we the viewer know that he was previously a free man, and that he has been unlawfully sold into slavery. While the entire slave trade is based on horrific violence—people being torn away from their lives and families and treated as property—Solomon's story is made especially horrifying by virtue of the dramatic irony, that we know Solomon has lived life as a free man in America, but is now being forced to pretend to be a slave.

Solomon can read (Dramatic Irony)

On Epps' plantation, Mistress Epps wonders if Solomon can read when she hands him a list of things to pick up at the store. He lies to her and tells her he can only read a little, because he knows that revealing his education will only stir up trouble. This is an instance of dramatic irony, in which we know something the Eppses do not.

Solomon and Bass (Dramatic Irony)

Solomon finds an ally in Bass when he tells his fellow worker that he is a free man and asks Bass to deliver a letter to his friends in Saratoga. Bass agrees, and the two of them get back to work, just as Epps is returning. We know that if Epps were to find out about Solomon's plan, he would likely have Solomon killed, but Bass protects Solomon's secret, which leads to his freedom. In this moment, we know about their alliance, while the Eppses do not.