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

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Equiano's Rhetorical Strategies

Equiano appeals to his audience in at least three ways, for anti-slavery. One used in the beginning when he is describing his life in Africa is the appeal to audience’s emotions. Europeans at this time viewed most Africans as savage but he turns the tables with the use of emotion. On page 421, he talks about reuniting with his sister, and the joy it brought the both of them. Then he says of their separation, “…but even this small comfort was soon to have an end; for scarcely had the fatal morning appeared when she was again torn from me forever!” He goes on almost talking directly to her, maybe seeking closure with this traumatic experience. Yet I think he is just appealing to the reader’s emotion by showing such pain and heartache over the separation from his family.

Another appeal that Equiano attempts is the appeal to the logic of the reader and the situations he presents. A good example of this is when Equiano talks about men’s freedoms and rights. He says of slave trade, “Surely this traffic cannot be good, which spreads like a pestilence,… which violates that first natural right of mankind, equality and independency, and gives one man dominion over his fellows which God could never intend…” He says that slavery hardens people’s hearts and corrupts their minds. He raises other arguments to logic such as the fact that Europeans stereotype slaves as “incapable of learning,” but enslaving and suppressing them is what causes ignorance.

This section is filled with not only logic but also an emotional side seeps through the text. Equiano uses a lot of exclamation points, rhetorical questions and logic to make his point. There is definitely a point where he climaxes and then calmly comes to a major point. Because of this, it is easily seen that he believes in this whole-heartedly. His point to grasp is “by changing your conduct, and treating your slaves as men, every cause of fear would be banished. They would be faithful, honest, intelligent, and vigorous; and peace, prosperity, and happiness would attend you.”

The third appeal is to Christianity and the civilized. By showing that he aggressively wanted to adopt the religion and lifestyle of a Christian, he proves that an African, when given the chance, is just like any other man. Any man can learn, any man can dream, and any man can rationalize. The idea that all men are created equal and that they shouldn’t be judged by their nationality or origins is emphasized. Thus proving the stereotype of Africans by Europeans greatly wrong, Equiano begins to conclude his autobiography with his conversion to Christianity.

To conclude, I think that Equiano’s appeals to emotion, logic and Christianity are effective. Soon after the publication of his narrative, things changed in England and its colonies in accordance with the anti-slavery movement. Close to the end, Equiano uses logic to persuade the audience to think like him. He introduces the idea that Africa could be a big part of the manufacturing trade if left to grow and prosper when slavery is abolished. Then the African population could grow and demand for manufacturers would do the same.

-Mihee Jones


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