In the film “Glory” Trip is one of the most complex, fascinating, and perhaps realistic characters in the film Glory. He was once a slave and carries a great deal of resentment about his country and is one of the only black characters that speaks repeatedly with bitterness. Although he is cynical and unhappy most of the time, he does offer the most sensible voice out of the group on issues of racial inequalities and leads the movement to reject the paychecks out of protest. It is difficult to not feel strongly about this character, especially during the scene in which he is whipped and scars on his back are displayed. It is at this point that the reasons for his cynicism are made clear and the audience can begin to understand him. All the characters in this film have depth, but none stand out quite like Denzel Washington’s depiction of the character Trip in the film “Glory”.
Trip has conflicts with several characters, but sometimes it simply seems that he has a score to settle with the world. He is difficult to work with and not easy to approach and this makes him have various problems with others. He lets his fellow soldiers know from the very beginning that even though they are fighting for their country, nothing is going to change for the black America and this stirs up emotions, even with the normally quiet and collected Rawlins. Trip has a very big conflict with his leader, Shaw, and this leads to a brutal whipping for the crime of desertion and makes the master and slave motif even more resonant. Even though things are eventually resolved between the two men, the conflict between Shaw and Trip is ongoing and it is clear that Trip saves much of his resentment for Shaw, even though he does try later in the film to help the men by getting shoes and also refusing his paycheck. Trip is also extremely harsh to Searles, who is quiet and reserved, and it seems he sees the shy Searles as weak and other characters also pick on him because he is educated and represents something different and more “white” than a character like Trip.
Trip has a number of personal conflicts that he must overcome before the end of the film, the most notable of which is his attitude about the future of black people. He is very bitter, especially after being a slave and undergoing the harsh punishments that are evidenced by the scars on his back but strangely, it is this bitterness that is his strength. Once he is able to reconcile his anger with a higher sense of purpose, he is able to let go of some of the pain and be a proud soldier that knows he is doing the right thing. He sees that he has the potential to empower his people, even if he does it by making embittered statements. For instance, he says to one of his fellow black soldiers in one of the important quotes from Glory, “Let me tell you something, boy. You can march like the white man, you can talk like him. You can sing his songs; you can even wear his suits. But, you ain’t never gonna be nothing to him, than an ugly ass chimp… in a blue suit” and while this is a harsh thing to say, it does eventually seem to motivate some of those around them to stand up for themselves.
Trip’s transformation comes rather late in the film as he feels a growing sense of brotherhood among himself, the other black soldiers, and the white leader Shaw. He realizes that they are fighting for a good cause and is able to put his bitterness aside to achieve a goal. The final battle, even though it produces a sad ending, still contains a hopeful message and part of this is because Trip was able to reconcile some of his past with the future of African Americans. He has used his anger and resentment to rally his fellow men and to bring about some kind of changes in the perception of African American soldiers who were, at first, thought of as disobedient and incapable of doing anything but basic tasks instead of fighting. In this way, he is one of the film’s anti-heroes and stands out as one of the most remarkable characters in the film.
This film made history real and accessible. Instead of representing common stereotypes of black men and soldiers, all of these characters are well rounded and realistic, especially Trip. Without him, the calmness of Rawlins would have fallen flat and the true message, that African American soldiers were able to rally for a cause and prove themselves, might not have been so powerful. This is an excellent film to be shown in high school classes because it does not distance us from the reality of racism and war during the era of the Civil War. In textbooks and many other films, African Americans are presented in the background and are not recognized at all, but this film makes their role clear and this is a welcome change. Without a film such as this, it might be ore difficult to imagine the role of African Americans in the Civil War since there are few, if any, images of them in the readings and standard Civil War fare most students are presented with.
Other essays and articles in the History and Arts Archives related to this topic include : Slavery in America’s South : Implications and Effects • Film Comparison of “Gone with the Wind” and “Cold Mountain”