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

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Equiano's Rhetorical Accounts

Throughout U.S. history we learn of the horrific tales of slavery and cruel treatment towards blacks, but seldom do we look upon the journeys in which these initial slaves from Africa endured as they were forcibly brought to the new world. It is noted that Equiano’s The Interesting Narrative of Olaudah Equiano was the 2nd slave narrative to be composed during its time as well as the first of which to not be written by an amanuensis. This was an extremely rare accomplishment for a former slave at this point in history and demonstrated his brilliance as a human being to overcome such obstacles. Hardships throughout Equiano’s story helped to form strong views on slavery and made him an important figure in the abolition movement. Equiano uses several modes of arguing to express his feelings on the matter. His rhetorical stance on slavery is gathered by relating Christian ideals, challenging the beliefs of society and focusing on the sentimental aspects of his audience.

Like the majority of Africans sold into the slave trade, Equiano practiced the rituals and beliefs of his homeland. Despite the fact that these religions differed in each area of the continent, they all held common practices which greatly separated them from Christianity. Later in Equiano’s life he becomes intrigued with Christian values and discovers that it is the only way for him to be truly happy in his life. He notices early on that the teaching of the Bible blatantly denounce and oppose the act of owning another person, but yet the Christian world over looks it by enslaving his people. In simplest terms Equiano is saying that slavery is unchristian.

This weakness in the European society is pointed out in order to announce that although the African religions seem unjust in their ways, the Europeans have their flaws as well. European presumptions of Africans were skewed as they portrayed these people as savages with cannibalistic agendas. Equiano reverses these hierarchical biases, which elevate the whites over the blacks. He uses this reversal method to better express situation by switching the thinking of the reader. During his first encounter with these new people, Equiano is terrified and notes that; “I asked if I where not going to be eaten by those white men with horrible looks, red faces and long hair”(p. 424). He makes the same accusations that any European might come to if Africans took them captive. Every aspect of these people baffles Equiano and even the movement of the ships over the sea is thought to have been a power given to the white men by some sacred spirit on they could conjure.

Equiano identifies the harsh reality of slavery to the reader by implementing sentimental rhetoric. When members of another tribe take Equiano from his home, he becomes separated from his family. During this time the only comfort he has is the company of his sister, which is taken from him twice. Equiano explains other accounts of the anguish that these divisions in family can produced by saying; “Oftentimes my heart has bled at these partings, when the friends of the departed have been at the waterside, and with sighs and tears, have kept their eyes fixed on the vessel, till it went out of sight” (p. 433).

In all, Equiano firmly believes that slavery conflicts with human rights on an endless amount of levels. He condemns slavery in general, but supports the act of slavery in his own land because of the treatment of their slaves in comparison to that in the new world. Equiano uses these forms of rhetoric in hopes to attract the attention and support of the reader.


Blogger BJ Baughcum said...

I personally think you did a great job on close reading of this story. You threw in quotes at the right times to make an effective argument of you own views.

7:42 PM  

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