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

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Olaudah Equiano

Equiano uses various rhetorical strategies to argue against the brutal practices of slavery. The two main strategies he uses to argue his point throughout the text are religious/Christian and sentimental arguments. Equiano does not come out right and say slavery is bad and the people that practice it are wrong but alludes to that point well in the text. Equiano uses these two modes of arguing, sentimental and religious, to get people to listen and feel for what is going on in the Americas and Europe with slavery. This is much more effective than simply telling people what they should and should not do.

Equiano’s main rhetorical strategy, that I picked out from the text, against slavery, or practices of slavery, is his mode of arguing using religious practices. There are many instances where Equiano tries to figure out why the “white man” does the brutal things he does to other “human beings” and then says he is Christian. When witnessing families torn apart in slave sales Equiano writes to the Christians that an African might ask them, does not your God say, “Do unto all men as you would men should do unto you.” Actions of the “white man” throughout the text go against Christianity. For example, when Equiano was on the ship sailing over he mentions that the “white man” threw the extra fish over board instead of allowing it to be eaten by the hungry slaves. One of his masters, who became a very good friend to him, went against his word to Equiano and betrayed him; Equiano was sold instead of given his freedom when it was promised to him. The Christian master deceived his “friend” and then went about his day like he did nothing wrong. In another instance, Equiano points out a “Christian master” that pinned a slave down by his wrists and ankles and dropped hot wax over his back for attempting to escape. These are just a few of many examples of how Equiano uses religious beliefs to argue against the practices of slavery. He points out, throughout his text the many things the “white man” is doing that go against the Christian beliefs and teachings, but that the “white man” does not seem to realize this.

The reader will also find many examples of Equiano arguing what he believes to be right using a sentimental appeal to the reader. Equiano tells us throughout the text about many heartbreaking experiences. When Equiano uses this mode of arguing he paints a very clear picture for the reader to understand and feel what he might have felt. Reading about Equiano and his sister being separated for the final time made me think about how I would feel if I were in the same situation, and made me think how heartbroken I would be at that age to be torn from my brother. Some of Equiano’s arguments use both religious and sentimental rhetoric at the same time. For example, when he talks about how badly slaves are treated for things that are simple mistakes appeals to both the Christian beliefs and a person’s feelings. The point Equiano makes that I agree with most is when he tries to understand why slaves are treated badly. He says if masters will treat their slaves better, the slaves will perform better, and both will be happier and get more out of the relationship.

Julie Adkison


Blogger Jillina said...

I thought your blog was very interesting. I particularly appreciated how you mentioned that in some areas of the text he used two forms of rhetoric at the same time.

Did you feel that he used the Chrisitian rhetoric more than the sentimental? I ask this because I noticed that you seem to put more emphasis on the Christian rhetoric in your blog.

Jill Vinson

7:00 PM  

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