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

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

A Fisherman's Story

“When he had caught any fish, his master would frequently take them from him without paying him; and at other times some other white people would serve him in the same manner. One day he said to me, very movingly, ‘Sometimes when a white man take away my fish, I go to my master, and he get me my right; and when my master by strength take away my fishes, what me must do? I can’t go to any body to be righted; then…I must look up to God Mighty in the top for right.’”

This seemingly simple tale about a fishing slave uses all rhetoric that Olaudah Equiano needs to use to reach all of his audience.

Firstly, we see that Olaudah employs Christian morals to make his readers glance at their own souls. This poor slave finds himself without hope after, not only his freedom, but his fish are taken away from him. He looks up to Providence for justice, knowing that he can never attain that in his present situation. The slave epitomizes a Christ-like personality, as if he is turning the other cheek because he knows he’ll have his justice in the afterlife. Equiano’s tactic is targeted at white Christians to provoke them to really think about the morality of the slave trade. Equiano seems to say, “How can you persecute a man, even more zealous than you are, who worships the same God as you?”

Secondly, Equiano touches on the rhetoric of man’s natural rights. The poor slave’s master is quick to defend his slave against any other man taking his fish, but only for his own prosperity. The slave went out and caught the fish on his own, enjoying the little time he had, only to be unjustly robbed by his own master, the only person he has to protect him. Even worse, is the fact that the slave is seemingly unalarmed by this action of his master; as if this happens all the time, and nothing else is to be expected. This blatantly takes away the slave’s right of liberty.

Finally, Equiano uses this passage to pull at the heartstrings of his audience. The reader can’t help but feel sympathy for the poor slave. Equiano draws a vivid image of this uneducated slave using what spare moments he has after his labor to fish, to find some sort of freedom with his time. And even after serving his master all day in hard labor, he still has to give up his fish if his master sees fit. The slave is so yielding, so hopeless, because he knows that he can do nothing else, lest he be punished.

After reading this passage, the reader can’t help but think of how unjust it is for the white men to take away his fish. While Equiano comes off as telling a narrative, he is also using passages like this one to dig into the question of the morality of slavery. The readers find themselves having sympathy for the poor slaves, unjustly punished and robbed by the white men. This feeling is what spurred the uproar that started the abolitionist movement. Is this Interesting Narrative simply that, or is it an underlying call to the abolishment of slavery?


Blogger matt d said...

i feel that you used the chosen passage from the story, very well in order to show what you felt was Equiano's mission in writing it. you also give good detail to the way in which you feel reader is affected after reading this excert.

i did not post a blog for this story.

8:55 AM  

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