Twelve Years a Slave (2013 film)

Twelve Years a Slave (2013 film) Quotes and Analysis

"I will not fall into despair! I will keep myself hardy until freedom is opportune!"


On Ford's plantation, when Eliza, having been separated from her children, sobs the days away, Solomon scolds her for being so expressively despairing. He says this line as a way of convincing Eliza to remain strong, and also as a mantra for himself, to remind himself to keep looking towards the future and survival.

"I believe Tibeats is skulkin' about the premises somewhere. He wants you dead, and he will attempt to have you so. It's no longer safe for you here. And I don't believe you will remain passive if Tibeats attacks. I have transferred my debt to Edwin Epps. He will take charge of you."


Ford says this to Solomon after Tibeats becomes more violent and hateful towards Solomon. The relatively sympathetic slavemaster tells Solomon that he is sending him to a new plantation, which is both a relief and a frustration, as he has the opportunity to free Solomon once and for all, but does not.

"You're well traveled for a slave."


Bass, the Canadian hired hand who works on Epps' plantation, says this to Solomon, when he learns that Solomon has been to Canada. This marks a turning point in Solomon's life, in that in Bass he meets a white man who is not threatened by the news that he was once a free man. In fact, Bass is willing to help him win back his freedom.

"My sympathies extend the length of a coin."


Freeman, the man who initially sells Solomon to Ford, says this in relation to his part in the slave trade. Rather than feel sympathy towards the slaves he is selling, he is remorseless and mercenary, looking only for profit.

"You will remove that black bitch from this property, or I'll take myself back to Cheneyville."

Mistress Epps

Mistress Epps, jealous of Epps' sexual relationship with Patsey, threatens to leave him if he does not remove his favored slave from the property. She says this immediately after throwing a bottle at Patsey's face.

"If you want to survive, do and say as little as possible. Tell no one who you really are and tell no one that you can read and write. Unless you want to be a dead nigger."


Clemens, Solomon's only friend on the riverboat that takes them to the South, says this to Solomon as a warning. While Solomon believes that his education and status as a free man should grant him immunity from the horrors of slavery, Clemens informs him that, in fact, making his education known will only harm him more in the long run.

"What amused me just then was your concern for my wellbeing in this heat when, quite frankly, the condition of your is horrid."


Bass, the Northern worker, says this to Epps as a way of criticizing his treatment of his slaves. He suggests that Epps is concerned about his well-being, but not that of his black slaves. This flags that Bass has a critique of slavery, and could potentially be an ally to Solomon.

"I apologize for my appearance, but I have had a difficult time these past several years."


Solomon, upon returning home to Saratoga, greets his family with these words, breaking down in tears. It is a complete understatement of his traumatic experiences, and he apologizes, as if to maintain his dignity in the face of the grave indignities he has endured.

"I will write your letter, sir. And if it brings you your freedom, it will be more than a pleasure. It will have been my duty."


Bass says this to Solomon towards the end of the film, agreeing to mail his letter, so that he might make contact with the people back in Saratoga and find freedom. This line shows that Bass wants to help end slavery and injustice.

"I got this from Mistress Shaw. Mistress Epps won't even grant me no soap to clean with. Stink so much I make myself gag. Five hundred pounds of cotton day in, day out. More than any man here. And for that I will be clean; that all I ask."


Patsey says this to Epps when he attacks her for leaving the plantation and accuses her of carrying on an affair with his neighbor, Shaw. She explains that she went to Shaw's in order to get some soap, since Mistress Epps will not provide her with any. Patsey makes a plea for her innocence and her right to try and feel dignified by keeping herself clean, a privilege of which she has been deprived.