Words Are Power- Night John


Let me just say there were scenes in both the movie and the story that were hard to stomach, but it gave me so much more appreciation for the English Field I’m studying.

Words are power in this movie. Words bring education, it brings courage and insight. Words in this movie are forbidden because they could potentially unravel the order of slavery, but that doesn’t stop a few characters from learning them anyways.

It reminds you how powerful words still are today. I believe with education a man or a woman has the ability to change the world. It reminds you not to be scared and to have voice when people don’t allow you to have one.

It is a truly inspirational and moving movie and also an incredible book. It is said that the characters had no hope until they met Night John who taught them to be smarter.

*slight spoilers with sypnosis*

The movie is placed in the middle of the slave era on a southern plantation. The heroine is a curious little girl named Sarmy who’s mother was sold when she was a baby for talking back to the owner for his anger of not having a boy. There is a serious lack of empathy throughout this movie and the reason why I said it is hard to watch because it is an acute portrayal of what slaves went through. They are whipped, humiliated and not observed as humans and have no problem from their owners for having conversations in front of them like they are pieces of furniture, but I digress so I can get to the point of why this movie affected me.

Not all the white characters in this story are strictly evil, some have sympathy when the master does we called “Like training a dog…if you punish her later she wont even remember what for”However, there is only one

The Call and Response music in this movie was magical to see. For those who are familiar with musical history, Call and response singing is a traditional way of communication between the slaves. Often overlooked and a safe way for them to pass messages in the field. They can sing to each other if the master is coming or if they need to communicate.

The character Night John is brought into the story and the little girl is fascinated with his intelligence and demands to learn how to read and write. The other slaves who look out for her beg her not to because education is forbidden for them.

The take away is that education a gift that if known can’t be taken away. Priceless.

Night John does warn her that “Each time you make a letter you have to erase it.” White folks don’t want them to be educated. Knowledge is power. Huge way for slaves to show resistance.

I would say the girl in the story is a little reckless. She steals a bible in her growing urge to practice her letters and the youngest sons letter blocks.However, the more educated she becomes the easier it is for her to manipulate her owners.

In the movie it is shown that someone gets a thumb chopped off for being able to read, which just reiterates the fear of knowledge. Night John explains to Sarmy, “that learning to read is freedom because slavery is bounded by laws and deeds which the slaves cannot read.”

There is a scene when Night John takes the blame for the stolen bible and after he gets a finger cut off the master asks him if he has learned his lesson. He replies that he has and then begins to write the alphabet in the dirt. The letter he spells out is his name. He then tells Sarmy, “when one hand gets cut off, the other grows  back stronger.”

Sarmy is sold in the end, but because of John she has the ability to read and write. As the girl is joined to a line of other slaves, she asks if any of them have tobacco to trade. What has she to give in return? they want to know. And Sarny draws an A in the dirt. She sort fulfills the role in the end of teaching slaves how to read and write. Like Night John said “They have to read and write. We all have to read and write so we can write about this.”


P.S. if you have not yet seen the movie or read the book please do so. I do think this is a story that would benefit everyone. It’s packed full of lessons and history that shouldn’t be forgotten or ignored.