“The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano”: Analysis of the Literary Devices
Olaudah Equiano’s production, “The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African.” formed part of the Classic and Contemporary Readings publication that appeared in 1789. In this autobiography, Equiano is very definite in his mission to convince his readers of the existence of the slave trade in the 17th century, including the predicament and lifestyle of most of the slaves. Equiano has done well to bring out his life’s ordeal in a manner that makes all readers of this autobiography believe that the slaves faced difficult lifestyles and subjects of their masters in all ways. This essay is a literary analysis of “The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano.”
Literary Devices in The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano
It is the challenges and hardships that Equiano went through in the hands of his slave masters that prompted him to share the ordeals of his life with his readers. Equiano’s narrative analysis shows that the following strategies are used: citations, contrast, comparison, exemplification, narration, quotes, process analysis, cause and effect analysis, and argumentation.
To capture the attention of his audience towards the subject matter, Equiano has used intriguing narrations that outline his experiences as a slave bought from Africa. One can see that in the introduction, when he brings vivid accounts of the African lifestyle and the cause of the black skin seen amongst the Africans.
In this account, Equiano narrates about the customs, food, religious practices, and clothing of the Nigerian Africans before the beginning of the slave period. This account of narration at the beginning of volume 1 of his autobiography is significant since it allows the readers to understand the lifestyles of the Africans before the slave trade.
The readers automatically are made to know that the author is trying to convince them that the Africans had peaceful lives before the invasion of the slave masters from Europe and America. The analysis of Equiano’s narrative shows that he is passing a bold message that both American and European slave owners infringed on the human rights to the Africans by distorting their productive lifestyles.
This is significant since it gives the readers a basis of the judgment of the author’s work, making them attentive to the use of evidence and other materials to prove his point. To win the trust of the readers fully, Equiano has used extensive descriptions of the African culture of the Nigerians.
Contrast is another literary device in “The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano”. It is used to enhance the credibility and effectiveness of his autobiography. It is important to note that the author has used contrast extensively throughout the article. Comparison has mainly been used to show the differences that exist between the Africans and the Jews as well as the brutality of slavery in the beginning of volume 1 of the narration.
One can see this as Equiano states that “Let the polished and haughty European recollect that his ancestors were once, like the Africans, uncivilized, and even barbarous. Did Nature make them inferior to their sons? And should they too have been made slaves? Every rational mind answers, No,” (Equiano 43). This comparison is made to make the readers understand the credibility of the African customs, as well as brutality that slavery brought the Africans.
Equiano’s intention and this point of the narration is to negate the aims of the European and American slave owners. Besides, the author is raising the theme of equality within mankind. Equiano is alerting the readers that all human beings were once primitive and had uncivilized culture and so none should discriminate against another. This is what Olaudah Equiano believes in.
Process Analysis is another literary device used in “The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano”. The author has engaged in instances of explaining various stages that characterized his life. Equiano has vividly staged his life’s process in categories to indicate how he maneuvered his ways to freedom. This is shown when he describes the process of his capture and being bought as a slave by Henry Pascal, who was his first master.
He also describes the process of his education, learning of Christianity, and experiences with Europeans during the time he worked for his first owner. He demonstrates this by saying that “I ceased to feel those apprehensions and alarms which had taken such strong possession of me when I first came among the Europeans” (Equiano 111). The author goes ahead to describe how his first master betrayed him when he sold him to another master, James Doran, and he complains about the situation.
In summary, Olaudah Equiano demonstrates this by saying that “could not sell me to him, nor to anyone else. . . I have served him… many years and he has taken all my wages and prize-money… I have been baptized, and by the laws of the land, no man has a right to sell me” (Equiano 176-177). Equiano has used this rhetorical device to win over the trust of his readers and improve the effectiveness of this autobiography.
Equiano, Olaudah. The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African. London: Modern Library Pbk, 2004. Print.
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Introduction Olaudah Equiano’s production, “The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African.” formed part of the Classic and Contemporary Readings publication that appeared in […]