This is a course blog for the members of EH236 at the University of South Alabama, Spring 2006.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Equiano: The Interesting Narrative

The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano is just that, a very interesting one. The story was written by himself, which that fact itself is very astonishing. During this time period it was thought impossible for an African descendant to have the knowledge for coming up with such a story. Yet Equiano was an amanuensis, or self taught individual. This was an extremely rare accomplishment for a former slave at this point in history, as showed his intelligence a human being to overcome such adversity. Through most of this story, one could say it is an autobiography or a slave narrative. While looking at it from another angle, you may think of it as a book being used to make a point, and possibly abolish slavery. Equiano realizes that he can not strongly argue his reason for wanting to end slavery by noting all the hardships and terrible treatment of the slaves. He also realizes that if he wants support in ending slavery he can not exaggerate his misfortunes and tribulations to make them seem worse than they were.

I would like to focus on a passage for a moment. About six or seven months after he was kidnapped, middle paragraph of page 423, Equiano discusses some of his travels and how he was exchanged between many different owners and his eventual arrival at the sea coast. “I was immediately handled...and I was now persuaded that I had gotten into a world of bad spirits, and that they were going to kill me” (423). Up to this point, Equiano sees the whites as being a superior being, and that everything they did was accomplished by magic. Equiano is highly intimidated by them, and fears them tremendously. This now leads me to my next point.

Throughout the story, Equiano repeatedly comes across as being a very modest man. He never sees himself as being better than anyone else. Equiano is always referring to himself as being very fortunate, lucky, or blessed. “It was now between two and three years since I first came to England, a great time which I had spent at sea; so that I became inured to that service, and began to consider myself as happily situated, for my master always treated me extremely well; and my attachment and gratitude towards him were very great” (431). From that passage, I get the impression that Equiano is indeed being very modest, but more importantly I believe he is sucking up his pride and letting his rationale create the boundaries between fact and fiction. Equiano has now begun to accept the culture of the whites, and realizes that they too are human beings. He no longer sees the whites to be superior beings, nor magical ones.

Equiano lays credit to all of his good fortune and luck to his spirituality. Equiano was a very religious man during his younger days as a free person in his homeland, and all throughout his adulthood in captivity as a slave. His name, Olaudah, “means fortunate one,” and he always considers himself “a particular favorite of Heaven” (402). An important event takes place when Equiano converts to Christianity, but months before he does so, he continuously studies the bible and seeks advice on various passages’ meanings. He is disturbed by the hypocrisy of whites that are Christian as well as slave owners. In this way, I think Equiano is trying to say that slavery is an un-Christian event. He also notices many similarities between Christianity and the customs of his native tribe, the Ibo’s. “Once convinced of the authenticity of his spiritual transformation and well studied in the Bible, Equiano joined the Methodist Church and became something of an evangelist, sparring over doctrine with a Catholic priest in Cadiz and preaching to the Mosquito Indians during his voyage to Central America in 1776” (403). Digging into the true purpose of this passage; I get the impression that the author wants the reader to see slaves, and maybe all other blacks, as being a rational race; hopefully influencing whoever reads to realize that the Africans are humans as well.


Blogger BMS307 said...

I think you chose some useful passages to express your thoughts on the reading. I also liked the close reading elements found in the 2nd paragraph. I feel that expanding on those examples from the text a bit more could add to your review.

8:44 AM  

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