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

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Just a Passage

Because we seem to have thoroughly discussed Equiano’s forms of rhetoric (and because I can’t remember what Dr. Shlensky said we should write about), I have decided to discuss something different. I would like to draw attention to a passage at the end of chapter one, starting on page 416 through the end of the chapter. It starts with “Such is the imperfect sketch my memory has furnished me with …” and goes on to compare the practices of his African village with those of the Jews. I found this passage very interesting for two reasons. First of all, it was the first indication that the writer of the text was more intelligent than he let on. His citation of several different works is one thing that led me to this conclusion. I don’t know whether the authors, such as Dr. John Gill or Thomas Clarkson, were credible in their time, but Equiano must have thoroughly read and understood them. He also shows a supreme understanding of the bible, a text which I myself find difficult to understand. But what is more important than Equiano’s education is his ability to reason. He uses this ability throughout the text to argue his point against slavery, but only when he is arguing a point. He never complicates his descriptions of what happens to him with lengthy explanation, unless it is suitable to his story’s purpose. Upon reading this passage, I realized that this was not just an autobiography of a slave. It is a direct and purposeful book.
I would also like to explore his specific argument in this passage. He makes the connection that ancient Jewish practices are very similar to his village’s practices, enough so to suggest that they originated as the same people. He goes on suggest that there is really nothing different between the races, other than their skin color. On page 417 he states “These instances … while they show how the complexion of the same persons vary in different climates, it is hoped may tend also to remove the prejudice that some conceive against the natives of Africa on account of their color.” While this idea may coincide with the most reasonable of the Enlightenment period, it seems radical to the norm of society to suggest that Africans are equal to Europeans, that the differences are due only to their climate. It is as if he is no longer just arguing against slavery, but instead arguing for equality among the races. As the paragraph goes on, he uses both reason and religious rhetoric to support this. He writes “Let the polished and haughty European recollect that his ancestors were once, like the Africans, uncivilized, and even barbarous.” with this he is saying that it is the education of men that make them civilized, not their skin color. He also uses a well known quote from the bible that says that God made all men from the same blood, so that in essence they are all the same. I do not think that Equiano is really trying to persuade his audience that all races are equal. In the context of the entire book Equiano uses this passage to support his argument against slavery. It is important to note this idea of equality, as it is an idea that many have faced and tried to argue well into the 20th century.


Blogger DenieseW2004 said...

Hey Caroline! I think you did a good job on this blog. It shows that you did some close reading of the material as you were able to go beyond the mere surface of the text, and state what you believe Equiano was really trying to do through his narrative. You also used direct quotations to help prove your point. That is great. I am also glad that you chose a different topic than what was originally assigned. You can only read so many papers/essays on rhetoric! Keep up the good work. See ya in class!

8:18 PM  

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