The Interesting Narrative Of The Life Of Olaudah Equiano?

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Why would one want to retell and relive their experiences of physical, emotional, and mental abuse? In the case of human chattel enslavement, the goal was abolition – and the means were to enlighten the world about the horrors of the legal and societally accepted practice. The slave narrative is one that dates to the mid 1700’s (“Slave Narratives”), and continued into 1863 when the Emancipation Proclamation freed slaves – yet the struggle for African Americans continued well into the 20th century with Jim Crow. The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano; or, Gustavus Vassa, the African, Written by Himself (1789), by Olaudah Equiano, is just one of thousands of these slave narratives that depict unimaginable suffering, loss of …show more content…
Equiano’s narrative was immensely popular, being published in multiple countries, but it’s validity has been recently researched and debated primarily by literary scholar Vincent Caretta, but led the way for many others. “Recollection of the past is always a highly subjective phenomenon, one continually susceptible to modification and distortion”, which is applicable to a large majority of these works, because of the inability to prove the claims made (Limitations of the Slave Narrative). In order to garner attention and publicity, one must stand out – and in a sea of brutal, heart-wrenching stories, what makes one different? Equiano’s approach was to not only write a slave narrative, but to intertwine it with a travel narrative as well, since that was a highly favored genre of literature in the late 1700’s (Batten ix). The autobiography highlighted the beginnings of his life into being forced into slavery, then later shifted into a story of determination to better himself (focusing on his religious experience) and continuing to travel the seas even after being freed. For the sake of abolition, Equiano may or may not have overexaggerated some of his experiences or took …show more content…
Yet, the white society this establishment was under didn’t begin to listen until religious figures (like the Quakers) began to put slavery into a context of sin. Most slaves identified with the same religion as their oppressors, and used that to their advantage in advancing their arguments, for example, Equiano claims “I thought that if it were God's will I ever should be freed it would be so”, emphasizing his dedication to his religion, which could be appreciated by the intended audience. Frederick Douglass, another prominent ex-slave writer was praised as “His written productions in finish compare favorably with the written productions of our most cultivated writers”, which forced his audience to confront the defied stereotype of slaves being uneducated (qtd. in Douglass vi). By writers presenting gruesome, vivid crimes against slaves, it not only provided the sensationalism an audience craves, but it “transformed readers into witnesses, placing them under the ethical obligation to effect its end” (Abdur-Rahman 236). Accomplishing a relatability to the audience would be a hard task, due to proponents of the slave industry having no way to empathize with the victims, but writers forced the oppressors to

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