Argument Against Slavery In Olaudah Equiano's Interesting Narrative

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Abolitionists in 18th century Britain combatted many incorrect stereotypes and inappropriate justifications for the enslavement of Africans. To create an effective argument against slavery, writers had to counter these preconceptions in subtle and irrefutable ways. For instance, Olaudah Equiano’s Interesting Narrative uses nuanced language, an unexacting tone, and manipulated sentence structure to explicate his experience, garnering sympathy and disgust for African slaves’ plight, while remaining comprehensible and inoffensive to a white audience. Thus, his subtle rhetorical techniques relate Equiano to his audience, while still critiquing their treatment of slavery, accomplishing the seemingly impossible task of proving Africans should not …show more content…
Equiano uses very long sentences. He opts for commas, semicolons, and colons instead of full stops, effectively trapping readers and creating an authentic depiction of the Middle Passage. Longer sentences reflect the prison of the boat and lengthen the time to reflect upon it. Without overtly stating it, Equiano is able to describe the suffocating enclosure the slaves inhabit. In fact, he strengthens his case for abolition beyond the content of the words, extending it to a feeling. Additionally, the use of non-full stop punctuation renders an atmospheric rhythm; feeling like the ocean. This intensifies the account of the Middle Passage, compelling readers to reconsider the morality of the slave trade. Furthermore, Equiano’s repetition of personal language poignantly renders his argument because it shows the true reactions of someone experiencing the slave trade. Every sentence includes “I” (Equiano 1387). Equiano repeatedly writes, “I saw”, “I feared”, “I thought”, and “I asked” (Equiano 1387). This language does not seek to condemn, but to give an honest account of the experience. This is a much more successful argument for abolition because it is personal and simple; Equiano compels the reader to adopt his perspective. When faced with a direct and articulate expression of experience of the slave trade, readers are forced to re-evaluate the fundamental differences between Africans and Europeans and ultimately realise they do not

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