Essay on The Interesting Narrative of the Life Of Olaudah Equiano, Or Gustavus Vassa, The African

Published: 2021-08-11
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Wesleyan University
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Olaudah Equiano was born in 1745 in the land of Eboe the black people which is now known as Nigeria. The Interesting Narrative of the life of Olaudah Equiano written by himself is an attention-grabbing piece that nuances the life of the author during the era of the slave trade (Equiano p.7). Equiano was kidnapped and sold to the slave traders where he went to be a slave in the West Indies. Although he spent some time in the plantations in Virginia doing a little light farm and household work he spent most of the time working for a master who was a British navy captain his name is Henry Pascal. Pascal gave Equiano a new surname Gustavus Vassa a reason for him having two names, but he published his book under his African name to identify himself with his motherland Africa (Equiano p.9). The book narrates the life of the author from the time he was kidnapped together with his sister whom they later separated through the hands of the different slave masters until the time he purchased his freedom in 1766. He says "an opportunity of getting a sum large enough to purchase" his liberty through his trades (Equiano p. 2). The book explores the typical life that slaves went through during the slave trade period where Africans were sold as property, and they belong to the slave owners, and they had no rights and freedoms except to follow the masters instructions. The story begins by the author describing the cultures of the African people from the clothing, food, cultural and religious practices among others. The author likens his people from Eboe to the Jews and postulates that the reason for the dark skin the people of Eboe have is due to the harsh tropical climate (New York times p.5). He mentions that the Christian Europeans could be related to his people the Africans through the ancestral lineage of the Jews. I agree with the cruel life of the author, and the bitter ordeals he suffered at the hands of the colonial master and his writing justifies his need for his freedom and that of fellow Africans.

I felt a sense of compassion after reading the nonfictional story of an African man who was separated from his family. I agree with his plea to the spiritual and physical lords to grant the African people their freedom and allow them to be independent. From his bitter narration, it is true that slavery caused pain and separation of families, for instance, he was kidnapped together with his sister whom after separating her never saw again (New York Times p.8). Back in Eboe, he left his family whom they never met again until he died in a foreign land. His life is a description of moving from freedom to slavery and then purchasing his freedom again. Although he cannot deny that back home there was some form slavery the land of the Europeans is extreme torture and cruel treatment. I think the author endued much more than his age could allow it was an era of child labour and Africans were not treated as human beings but property to the lords of the time. His call to the lords of the land and his God portrays him as being fed up with the enslavement of the black people his piece addresses the black slaves and the colonial masters.

I concur with the author's description of slavery to be worse than death because he says that some slaves decided to kill themselves rather than continuing with slavery. He narrates that some threw themselves into the raging waters of the sea and it marked the end of their life. From the narration, it is a bitter ordeal because Equiano says that he endured several beatings in the diverse plantations in the Caribbean which caused him both physical and psychological harm. He says "heartily disgusted with the seafaring life," he is determined "not to return to it" and works in service for some time, though it isn't long before he returns to sea, working on voyages to New York and Philadelphia (p. 215). Although Equiano feels that he is kindly treated by his master Henry Pascal reality dawns on him when he is betrayed and sold to a ruthless master. It is through this ordeal that he realises that slaves are not treated as human beings, but property and the owner can then sell them at his pleasure.

The lamentation that Equiano has concerning the treatment of slaves is an accurate picture of the supremacy of the white man. It is true that captivity is as a result of the dominion of the white masters who have suffocated the rights and privileges of the African people. They are denied the right to move freely and shifted like cargo from one workstation to another. Although after several years of struggle he finally redeems himself he is not entirely free because he is still under the fear that he might be recaptured again as it happened to a fellow ex-slave. It occurred to him too when he was captured by two white men with an attempt to return him to slavery but only manages to escape after showing his eloquence in English "one said to the otherit will not do, and the other answered that I talked too good English. I replied, I believed I did" (Equiano p. 70).

Despite the fact that Equiano is fighting for the end of slavery he is still routed in it because after being free he travels through the world carrying slaves himself as he was taken around.It indicates that although he writes literature against slavery, he is still for it because he engages himself in the slave trade activities (The American south p.9). On the one hand, I disagree with his plea for the end of slavery and depict it as an idea that has just been born and not put into action.

It is important to note that slavery, as depicted by Equiano, brought a lot of pain and agony to the African people because they were separated from their families and never to see them again. The author gives a true story of his life but it nuances a broad picture of the lives of slaves during the slave trade period (The American south p.11). The pain he went through brings a feeling of compassion and the reason for the need to fight slave trade during the time it took place. It creates a sense of compassion and triggers interest in the mind of the reader in wanting to know the end of the bitter beginning of the life of the author. I agree with the authors plea to bring slavery to an end so that the black people can be free at last. He writes with so much pain and concern because of the ill-treatment and the suffocation of the rights and freedoms of the black person. Although he talks about the need to end slavery and after he gains his freedoms he participates in slave trade himself bringing an ironic twist in the book. But either way, I agree with his plea for the end of slavery among the African people.

Works Cited

Olaudah. E The Interesting Narrative Of The Life Of Olaudah Equiano, Or Gustavus Vassa, The African. Retrieved from 2005

New York times slavery isnt a thing of the past retrieved from't-a-thing-of-the-past.html 2013The American south Olaudah Equiano 2017

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