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

Friday, February 10, 2006

My Interpretation

The interesting narrative of the life of Olaudah Equiano is a proposal for the abolishment or rather the reformation of slavery written in the guise of an autobiography. Within his narrative Equiano directly as well as indirectly argues not so much the practice of slavery but rather the methods by which it is practiced. This I believe is due to an issue of cultural relevance. For even in his own country slavery is widely practiced, only by a different means. The capture of slaves is done in the same manner I believe. The Africans capture their slaves through inter-tribal warfare whereas the Europeans obtain slaves through a much more discreet form of warfare in which the attack the native Africans lust for power with the weapon of advanced capitalism. It is through this practice that Europeans persuade some Africans to betray their countrymen to the gnarled wretched hands of the western slave trade.

Equiano uses several rhetorical strategies to convey his message. He first appeals to the readers sense of humanity by explaining equality of all people of the same blood. He does this by describing his native culture this strategy shows the reader the humanity of his people. He then uses historical as well as theological references to point out a common ancestry with the Jews. He accredits this claim by citing his sources of a European writer as well as the bible.

The next strategy he uses is appealing to the readers sense of sentiment by describing his family and the way he and his sister were captured then transported.
This is rather effective as he explains the fear of a child being snatched from his loved ones and dragged to unknown and far off lands. He then describes the pain of losing his sister and how awful the experience was. In this section he also contrast the methods of slavery among Africans and Europeans. The worst comes as he arrives to the coast and paints a vivid depiction of an innocent child lost and filled with fear as he describes his first experience with Europeans. He then describes the horrors of the slave ship, his arrival to Barbadoes, and the atrocious treatment of the slave there. This appeal to sentiment he achieves throughout the story with several instances of betrayal, cruelty and humiliation. Such as in the instances involving the incident in Savannah Georgia, Mr. Annis and his plight, the fish and goods as well as the dignity stolen from his countrymen, and even his own betrayal by captain Pascal as well as many more throughout the text.

Equiano also appeals to the readers sense of religious values by pointing out the contradictions among the practice of slavery and the Christian faith. He does this throughout the text. In one instance he states "O, ye nominal Christians! Might not an African ask you- Learned you this from your God, who says unto you, Do unto all men as you would men should do unto you?". Equino also appeals to the readers sense of fear with a passage in which he in no subtle manner introduces the in the following passage a possibility of a bloody rebellion of the slaves "But above all are there no dangers attending this mode of treatment? Are you not hourly in dread of insurrection?".

The last method I will point out by which Equiano argues the method by which slavery is practiced is how he alludes to the possibility of economic gain by trading with the Africans as a free people. Our author proposes the westernization of Africa as a means to increase production and trade. Another method I believe was in the way Equiano described himself as a rational businessman with deep constitution, and a desire to please all around him. Through this method he seemingly proposes the futility in enslaving and binding such a person and preventing them from blossoming into such an upstanding member of any community.
Through this I believe he is making a point to all Africans showing that under the proper treatment they to can better society as a whole. Steven Robbins


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