Time Magazine has researched the real story behind “12 Years a Slave,” comparing the film to Northrup’s book and found most of it depicted as Northrup described it. SPOILER ALERT — here are a few of the facts they researched.
Mary Epps injures Patsey in a jealous rage
Northup does write in his autobiography about Epps’ affection for Patsey (Lupita Nyong’o) — and the jealousy aroused in Epp’s wife. However, he never writes anything about Mary (Sarah Paulson) becoming moved to violence or, as the movie shows, hurling a decanter at her face. Patsey did, however, suffer greatly from Epps’ alternative affection and rage, getting both raped and beaten, especially when Edwin was trying to prove to Mary his lack of affection for Patsy. [NOTE: There is a description in the book about Mrs. Epps throwing things at Patesey]
Northup was forced to whip Patsey
Patsey leaves the plantation to borrow a bar of soap from a neighbor. Epps did not believe Patsey’s story and compelled Northup to whip her as punishment.
Northup is saved, thanks to a letter written by a kind-hearted carpenter named Bass
Samuel Bass (Brad Pitt) did have a discussion with Epps about slavery as portrayed int he movie, leading Northup to believe he could trust Bass with a letter home. Bass sent the letter and had several nighttime meetings with Northup to report back on the letter’s progress. For a good deal of time, the letter received no response, and Bass even offered to go up to Saratoga himself and tell Northup’s friends about the situation once he could afford to do so. However, Northup’s friends received the letter sooner than that: they make the trip South and save Northup.