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The Interesting Narrative Of The Life Of Olaudah Equiano

1797 words - 8 pages

The novel The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano exists as an extremely important work in the abolitionist movement in England. As an 18th century narrative written by a former black slave the novel provides a glimpse into the lives of the African slaves involved in the slave trade as well as the slave traders themselves. Even with the controversy over the authenticity of Equiano’s claims on his origin in Africa and his subsequent voyage through the Middle Passage, this novel serves as a powerfully instructive piece of literature. Throughout the novel Equiano strives to impress upon the reader a certain set of moral standards or ideals that he desires to instruct the reader about. One such moral ideal that is prevalent throughout the entirety of the novel is Equiano’s construction of the idea of the value and worth of the African slaves, as opposed to the view of the African slaves as simply commodities or objects to be purchased and traded. Equiano argues and presses the reader and his audience to recognize that the African slave and the white slave owner are not as different as his audience may believe. In order to proclaim and showcase this idea of the value and worth of African slaves, Equiano uses the Christian religion to develop and sustain his argument. In many cases during Equiano’s time period, and for a while afterwards, Christianity and the Bible were used in defense of slavery, and this fact makes Equiano’s claim more powerful and groundbreaking. One of the key attributes of the novel is Equiano’s spiritual conversion and religious revelations. I believe that Equiano’s Christianity serves to connect him with his audience, increases his credibility as an author, and ultimately proclaims the disparity between the views of the slaves’ worth as merely economical, and the assumed Christian morality of the slave traders and his audience.
Equiano’s target audience is essential in understanding the novel and I believe that Equiano is not only writing to educated whites in England but specifically to white Christians. In choosing educated white Christians as his target audience, Equiano can develop moral arguments based on the Christian moral standards. Throughout the novel Equiano appeals to his white companions’ Christianity to realize the moral implications of their actions or inaction. The first instance that Equiano instruments appealing to one’s Christianity occurs in the second chapter of the novel where Equiano states, “O, ye nominal Christians! Might not an African ask you, learned you this from your God, who says unto you, Do unto all men as you would men should do unto you” (pg. 43). In the above passage, Equiano charges the slave traders with being Christians in name only, arguing that if the slave traders were “true” Christians they could not help but see the African slaves as a part of this “all men” and therefore worth being treated as the slave traders would desire to be treated themselves. The appeal to...

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