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Credible And Conscience: Equiano's Effective Narrative

1032 words - 4 pages

Olaudah Equiano's "The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano" is one of the most influential slave narratives to present day society. As one of the first widely read accounts of the slave trade, Equiano's style established an effective form of slave narrative that influenced countless authors, including Frederick Douglass. The language sets up credibility and maintains a tone of honesty rather than sentimentality. Through his use of diction, verb tense, and the consciousness of his target audience, Equiano creates a realistic description of slave life that is both powerful and informative.

Much of Equiano's word choice within the description of the treatment of female slaves creates a type of accountability towards the reader. The use of language such as "depredations", "atrocities", and "abominations.".. "Of the chastity of the female slaves" certainly correlates the horrors the females faced with the hypocrisy of the readers who do not take action to correct these unimaginable injustices. When Equiano describes being "unable to help them" it is intended first to make the reader realize the wrongness of the treatment of these women, but also to see that although Equiano is helpless, they are not. This language is used to inform as well as mobilize a group of people who could help change the situation. "Depredations" points to both destruction and the devastating effects the sexual assaults have on these female slaves. The use of the word chastity ties in the religious factor of need to protect the sexuality of these "females not ten years old." Two other noteworthy points include the way Equiano points out the individuals committing these "cruelties of every kind" as clerks and other whites. The specific implication is that the white people, not the African slaves, are the ones acting brutally and with inhumane disregard. The other point worth noting is the exclusion of sentimental language. Rather than playing up the details of brutality, Equiano describes the acts in such a way that allows the mind of the reader to imagine the atrocities rather than get into descriptive words that could take from the credibility of the narrator. Equiano doesn't use language that one could get hung up on the graphic nature. This use of appearing to be stating the facts lends to the believability of the account.

Verb tense also implies identifiable intent within this passage. In some parts of the narrative, Equiano uses past tense, such as "exercised", "obliged", and "discharged." This builds credibility because it asserts that it is an experience that Equiano and other people have encountered. He also uses verbs in the present tense, such as "commit these acts" and "I have even known them [gratify]" that imply that it is an action that continues at the moment that the reader is digesting reality of these acts. Although many of the verbs are in past tense, there is no implication that...

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