In the 1989 film Glory, directed by Edward Zwick, one character stood out the most to me as a viewer. This character is named Private Silas Tripp, he plays an important role as to show one of the sides of how the African American men felt at that time. Private Silas Tripp is played by Denzel Washington, and his character is the most complex and realistic character in the film. Tripp existence adds emphasis to the story’s plot to show all the angst and grudges African American men still had towards their white counterparts. Private Silas Tripp is a tall slim African American man, apart of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment in 1862. He was originally a slave and at the age of 12, he ran away from Tennessee. It was revealed that he was a slave, when one of the white head soldiers as ordered to whip Tripp after he went AWOL to find shoes. When his shirt was removed, it exposed visible old scars caused by a whip from his old days as a slave.
Out of all the main characters, Tripp is the most cynical and intense of all the other characters. He has a lot of resentment towards his country, and speaks with lots of hostility. He treats the other African American soldiers harshly when he feels like they are acting as pushovers from their white counterparts treatment. Tripp is a very rebellious individual and is so eager to get what he wants, no matter what cost. He doesn’t like that they are treated as second-class citizens; when they just want to be apart of the war too, to fight for their country as everyone else does too. Private Tripp is very strong-willed, he is fighting in the war for his own reasons; stating the war was much more than a battle between the North and the South. His view on this war, was that nothing was going to come out of this war referring to Black America. His role in the movie is to be the most sensible one, even though he is the most angry, he often is the voice to speak out on racial inequalities and injustice.
Tripp led a movement to have equal payments for his African American partners, wanting to rip up their paychecks and not accepting it until they were paid more. This character was such an important addition to the storyline, because he showed how some of these soldiers still didn’t feel as apart of the team, even if they were free and allowed to now fight in the war. Tripp acted as a guidance for Shaw, as he was very cruel to Shaw and bottled up all his resentment and pushed it upon him. All of his actions left Shaw to realize how unfair the African American soldiers were being treated and fought for their equality.
Shaw helps him realize they are fighting for a good cause and this changes their relationship with each other. Shaw is one of the first to fight on behalf of the black soldiers and praises Tripp for his good work by asking him to carry the flag of their country. The last scene shows Shaw’s dead body and then Tripp’s body falling on top of him. Seeing them all piled up together, with other dead bodies of other races, shows how they are all the same, just soldiers. The film’s setting with scenes involving Tripp are very muted and spotlight Tripp. Most scenes that have Tripp as the main focus, the camera is shown to be zoomed in mainly on Tripp’s face to emphasize his emotions. Since Tripp is a character that is driven mostly by his emotions, its important to see his facial expressions as he passionately talks about his injustices. Especially in the scene where he was getting whipped; not wanting to seem weak, you could see him trying to be the strong and tough guy he portrays.
This moment showed a lot of weakness for his character as we see the camera zoom and focus more on his face and we see him start to cry. Throughout the film, Tripp’s attitude towards his team changes, he acts more like he is apart of the team. At first he had many conflicts with other characters and was a very difficult person to communicate with. He still has a lot of bitterness from being a slave, but this bitterness helps him come to his senses when it comes to his anger. He puts all his anger into a bigger purpose and lets go some of his resentment to become a proud soldier that fights for his country. Realizing he has the power to encourage his people, especially when it comes to making them realize that blacks and whites will always be different, no matter how much you pretend to not be the stereotypes ignorant people portray you as.
Tripp stated in the movie, “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.” Tripp wants the others to know that you can’t just be a pushover to their white counterparts if they don’t respect you, this helps motivate the other African American soldiers to stand up for themselves. Tripp eventually transforms into having pride for his brotherhood and setting aside his anger towards his white counterparts so they can achieve a mutual goal.
He showed a lot of pride and maturity when they were at battle and after Shaw was killed, Tripp stood up and raised the American flag and led the other soldiers to fight. Tripp’s character helped portray a different image of African American soldiers than was previously thought. They were originally seen to be disobedient soldiers and incapable in fighting, this lead to the disapproval and hesitation of letting African American men fight in the war. Tripp’s character was important to the film because he counter acted against the other black soldiers to show a different side of the African American soldiers, who still had resentment in his heart and who just wanted to prove themselves to have equality for his people.