Olaudah Equiano's Narrative Term Paper

Pages: 3 (1028 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1  ·  File: .docx  ·  Topic: Black Studies

¶ … Olaudah Equiano's narrative

One of the most starling revelations provided by the life of the Interesting Narrative of the life of Olaudah Equiano is the commonness of African slavery and the tolerance of slavery in the world in general, even by whites who acknowledged African intelligence. Equiano, while he condemns the institution of slavery, paints a complex and nuanced portrait of the phenomenon. Rather than present himself as an innocent, spirited away from a pure, African land to his largely white audience, Equiano is fair and balanced in his portrait of what his previous existence was life as an African prince, where he was attended by slaves before he became a slave himself in the Americas. However, he still conveys the message that, although slavery is a barbaric institution wherever it is practiced, the African experience of being in White captivity was profoundly different than the American slave experience. By reading his narrative, whites are able to learn why slavery in the Americas is so uniquely horrific, and also see how the commonness of slavery in the culture of the day caused his moral, Christian masters to praise his skills as a clerk and navigator, yet deny him his natural impulse towards freedom. Modern readers must also be aware of Equiano's self-conscious presentation of his life and his own consciousness of his white audience, whom he was attempting to persuade with his gentility and fairness, as well as with the horrors of slavery.Buy full Download Microsoft Word File paper
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The alien quality of the culture he entered when first enslaved is immediately apparent when Equiano boards the ship in Chapter 2 of his narrative. Almost intuitively, or with the gift of hindsight he realizes that he is parting with his culture as well as his freedom: "I was now persuaded that I was got into a world of bad spirits, and that they were going to kill me. Their complexions too differing so much from ours, their long hair, and the language they spoke, which were very different from any I had ever heard, united to confirm me in this belief. Indeed, such were the horrors of my views and fears at the moment, that, if ten thousand worlds had been my own, I would have freely parted with them all to have exchanged my condition with that of the meanest slave in my own country" (70-71). This description illustrates how the strangeness of the Europeans could be used as a method of fear and control against the Africans during the Middle Passage. Yet it also implicitly suggests to the white audience of Equiano's day that as whites often regard blacks as aliens, blacks regarded whites in the same way. In other words, prejudice against black Africans is not innate; rather fear of human difference is part of the human psyche. This description also underlines the fact that because bondage under whites removes Africans from their home, and from any chance at return, of being seen by their families, or bought back or exchanged for other prisoners, it is very likely worse than the African version of slavery.… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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