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

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Equiano’s use of rhetoric

In Equiano’s autobiography, he uses several different rhetoric in arguing his case. However, even though Equiano was a slave, his claim is not necessarily against slavery all together but more so against the brutal practices which existed within the institution. These he seeks to abolish through the explanation of how they are not conducive to the productivity of the slave and how a more humane approach can better benefit both parties.

One of the rhetoric which Equiano uses is the rhetoric of Christianity. As he says at one point when talking to a Mr. D, Equiano asked him “how he, as a Christian, could answer for the horrid act before God?” The horrid act in this case was the cutting off of a Negro man’s leg for trying to run away. In another instance, Equiano speaks of a Christian master dripping molten wax on the bare back of a slave who had attempted escape. These references are an effort to persuade a Christian reader to believe how brutal practices are inherently wrong.

Another mode of reasoning which Equiano uses is the rhetoric of sentimentality. The way in which he uses this is at times very interesting because even though slavery caused him to be separated from his family, he praises it because through it he was able to learn a great deal of information which he would have been denied had he not been taken into captivity. Nevertheless, Equiano is heart broken at the beginning of his autobiography by the initial separation from most of his family. He then explains how he had to go through those tumultuous feelings once more when he was reunited with his sister only to be dragged away with the break of dawn. When using the sentimentality appeal, Equiano seeks to show how the people being taken captive had the same feelings as the captors who took them.

Equiano also challenges different societies and their social standings. For instance, Equiano sees the Europeans as savage and cruel, much the same way as the Europeans looked upon the Africans. For instance, when Equiano is taken to the sea, upon seeing the white men he says, “I was now persuaded that I had gotten into a world of bad spirits, and that they were going to kill me. Their complexions, too, differing so much from ours, their long hair, and the language they spoke”. With this passage, Equiano describes how similar the two different cultures are by showing that each thought the same when contemplating the other.

However, if they were indeed so much alike, the question begging to be asked is, what would have it been like if the Africans were the first to travel the seas and seek new land? Would the race of white men have been enslaved to black owners? The answer lies in the fact that all men have predispositions to do evil deeds regardless of who the doers may be.

Spencer Oswald


Blogger kmh said...

Spencer, My comment to you is this. Anyone can rule (enslave) by manipulation and sheer brute force.It takes a noble individual to rule by honesty and integrity. But is it ensalvement when one is a prisoner of his or her own mind? Slavery is slavery by any other name. Therefore we can all be enslaved, whether of our own accord or by force. Maybe or maybe not. One should not focus soley on the what if's in life, moreso on the facts.

4:20 PM  
Blogger kmh said...

In the opening of the text, Olaudah Equiano states his name Olaudah is patient, and I believe patience is one of man's greatest fortunes. He appears to be a kind and humble creature. However he is somewhat of a mystery to me. He is a gentle spirit, when he should be a ravaging beast or a fearless warrior. Throughout the readings of the text I sense the discomfort Equiano experiences, yet I see no anger or hostility shown. Equiano is interested in the teachings of the bible. His avidity of the bible could possibly stem from him wanting to be audible. I find this quite amazing,although he suffers and is going through trials and tribulations in his life, he maintains his composure. He is able to keep a positive attitude. Equiano stays constant at his teachings and he seeks first to understand, then to be understood. Equiano is a learned individual, who seems to make light of his "misfortunes." One of the puzzling factors, is that he describes more about his surroundings or other to his readers than he does of himself.
He could possibly have thought of himself as an insignificant figure who knew not his destiny. Therefore he would speak of the atmoshphere into which he was placed. At one point in his life Equiano spoke of no longer doubting of his fate. Could this possibly be because he is a Christian and god fearing man? Or is this the fear his capturer's instilled in him? Could he have been so fearful that he would completely suppress his anger?
I believe that once Equiano learned their customs and ther beliefs (ways), he was able to become a model. A model citizen for the blacks, one who the Europeans could use, to control the blacks, or keep them in line. He came to be nothing short of the Europeans plan. Equiano was deemed the "black Christian," it was from here, he would lead, and he would become the perfect role model. Equiano's behavior was not shy of the term copy, since this is what he would do. He sought to mimick, or imitate the behavior of the Europeans. We lead by example. Equiano was setting himself up to become a leader. He was a spiritual man who was steadfast in the teachings of the bible. I feel this is the reason for the "favortism," that he states he is shown. In spite of all that he sees, or all that he has been through Equiano is not vengeful, for he has knowledge of the lord's wisdom which is laid out in the bible, and there it states: "Vengeance is mine."
The mystery of Equiano's unveiling still baffles me. His true motives tend to be hidden. He has suppressed not only his feelings and his emotions, but also his true intentions. I can only assume that he was so concerned about not only the Africans, but also the souls of the Europeans that he would go to extreme lengths in his teachings to prevent their souls from forever being tormented. This is a noble act for a noble being. A man of god.
He deemed this a worthy cause, and he is justified. Some would argue the price of freedom too great, but Equiano was an optimist. He chose to free his mind by means of religion. Anyone can be free in body, or the flesh, but it takes a soldier (one of god's) to free their mind, especially in the situation such as that of Equiano's. What good is freedom (a free body) if you are a prisoner in your own mind. An individual would be deemed practically worthless, if he or she possessed a body without a mind. Equiano sought to enlighten all who came across his path. He tried to free the minds and spirits of others. In my opinion this makes him very special. One who frees himself and seeks to free other's, is a man who knows no fear, but instead is courageous and admirable, that is why I call him God's fearless soldier.

5:54 PM  

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