Lesson 120. “Describe the differences between Northup’s response to separation from his children and Eliza’s response to separation from her children.”


In this essay I will be discussing and answeribng the essay question above, which states as follows, “Describe the differences between Northup’s response to separation from his children and Eliza’s response to separation from her children

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The essay question that I have to answer, is posed in the context of both parent-child seperations that happened


In the story, Northup describes how he, a freeman living in the north, was kidnapped and sold into slavery down south. At the point of his kidnapping, he had been married and had three children, from whom he was deceitfully separated. When Northup realises the situation he is in, the book describes his anguish and hurt from being separated from his family, yet he still had hope that, someday, he would escape.


In the story, Northup describes how Eliza, a slave mother to two children, was sold to the same slave trader who had acquired Northup. When she was sold to a plantation master, the trader would not allow her children to go with her and thus the family was tragically separated. In the book, it is only by force that she can be separated and her anguish is very clear in the text. Eliza never recovers from this separation and falls into a steady decline of health till she dies later in the book.

The difference between these two separations is not too large, yet there are a few distinctions between them. Firstly, as a mother, Eliza had extremely strong maternal bonds to her children, which Northup did not have, as he was a father. I’m not saying Northup did not love his children, he did, but studies have shown that mothers have a particularly special bond with their children, which renders separation a lot more painful.

Secondly, the setting. Northup knew, or was at least mostly hopeful, that his children and wife were safe from slavery and that it was just him being sold. Eliza on the other hand, knew her children would be sold into slavery as well and there was nothing she could do about it. Her helplessness in the future for her children made the situation darker and more hopeless.


To summarise and conclude, the essay discussed and answered the question regarding Northup and Eliza, two slaves who were separated from their children and how each individual reacted differently to the other. I concluded that, while both parents felt pain and anguish at separation, Eliza’s maternal instinct made her separation from her children especially hard to take. The setting of the situation also played a key role, as Northup’s children were safe from slavery, while Eliza’s children were being sold into slavery.


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