Narrative Of The Life Of Olaudah Equiano
A lifestyle of simplicity, community, hard work and unity is presented by African native Olaudah Equiano in The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano prior to his capture. Artfully guiding his readers through his childhood-to-kidnapped-slave experiences with a sense of innocent vulnerability, Equiano almost seems guilty of sugar-coating the hard truths of his travels. This narrative is a progression piece showing the ways in which Equiano’s life was altered and uprooted for the successes of the white man and how those experiences change him beginning with his life as a young boy in Essaka.
Equiano paints a picture of African life vibrant with innocence, community, traditions, and the glory of a simple life. Several important cultural aspects can be noted in the first paragraph of his excerpt; large families that are highly community-based, responsibilities delegated to older children within villages to watch over and protect younger peers as parents work the fields. A Judicial system controlled and implemented by adults holding positions of authority. Spewing knowledge of battle and cultivation to be heard and learned by children as was the way of life for African villages in the 1750’s. Along with the care-free joy of a child’s life comes the risks that accompany dangerous times and Equiano found himself amidst it with slavers wreaking havoc upon villages to kidnap children for a quick dollar and the never-ending spread of colonist control; stating early in the excerpt: “I was trained up from my earliest years in the arts of agriculture and war: my daily exercise was shooting and throwing javelins; and my mother adorned me with emblems, after the manner of our greatest warriors (Equiano). Themes of innocence and a raw, untamed life are shown through lines such as: “I gave the alarm of the rogue, and he was surrounded by the stoutest of them, who entangled him with cords, so that he could not escape till some of the grown people came and secured him. ” (Equiano), and “ … without giving us time to cry out, or make resistance, they stopped our mouths, tied our hands, and ran off with us into the nearest wood… “ (Equiano). Though life in Africa may have been unpredictable and wild, it compares nothing to the injustices committed against Equiano as his road with slavery began.
Many details are given about Equiano’s journey through slavery but not to the extent that his audience would be aghast or horrified, some elements of slavery seem to be glazed over. It appears that throughout his text that Equiano takes on the role of a story teller in a sense of ‘here’s where we went and what we did’, but typical horrors known to go hand-in-hand with slavery are not often touched on. Equiano more often describes the confusion, hurt, and longing for homeland that he witnessed in his people throughout his travels, for example: “Their complexions too differing so much from ours, their long hair, and the language they spoke, which was very different from any I had ever heard, united to confirm me this belief. ” (Equiano). Heavy use of emotional appeals utilized gain sympathy or understanding from his audience as shown in the following: “and a multitude of black people of every description chained together, every one of their countenances expressing dejection and sorrow, I no longer doubted of my fate…” (Equiano). Perhaps this tactic was purposely utilized by Equiano build an emotional alliance with his audience which would mainly have been American and European abolitionists and his end-goal being to persuade British politicians to do away with slavery in the 1780’s (Georgetown).
Touching on the dehumanizing tactics often utilized by slavers, Equiano’s treatment was no better than that of cattle being sold off for auction. Children were taken, treated as property, and sold off like livestock in parcels to catch the eye of the best slaughter-house as shown in the following piece: “They put us in separate parcels, and examined us attentatively, we were conducted immediately to the merchants yard, where we were all pent up together like so many sheep in a fold, without regards to age or sex. ” (Equiano). But the most notable part of the text altogether is a line from the ending in which Equiano confronts the slaving industry and it’s supporters by writing: “O, ye nominal Christians! might not an African ask you, learned you this from your God? Surely this is a new refinement in cruelty, which, while it has no advantage to atone for it, thus aggravated distress, and adds fresh horrors to the wretchedness of slavery. ” (Equiano). Despite his trials, and hardships, Equiano writes and fights for a better future, and part of that process is to learn from mistakes so history need not repeat itself.
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A lifestyle of simplicity, community, hard work and unity is presented by African native Olaudah Equiano in The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano prior to his capture. […]