ProsThis book is able to offer insight into the life of an actual slave, there are few other titles that can claim likewise since most slaves never learned to read or write, especially not with the masterful grace that Equiano had. This makes it a rare gem.
ConsContains events and situations that may be disturbing to some readers.
Full ReviewThe Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano is a wonderful autobiography. I would highly recommend it for students of American history, European history and the slave trade.
Olaudah Equiano use his narrative to fight against the slave trade and slavery. His case is compelling and masterful. What follows is a brief description of his life and the ways in which he used his narrative to fight the institution of slavery.
Equiano was born in Nigeria where he was taken captive and became a slave to Aros traders. His first destination was Barbados, a wealthy British colony in the West Indes. Next, he was moved to a tobacco plantation in Virginia. After a short stay there, he went on to serve the British on warships in the French and Indian war. He was identified by both African and Swedish names. Equiano also spent time in Italy, the Bahamas, Nicaragua, the Arctic as well as Turkey.
In his narrative, Equiano recounts details about the various types of people he had encountered in his life as well as the multitude of places he had been and the things he had seen. This range of experiences that he speaks about in his narrative helped the reader to better identify with Equinao, regardless of their skin color or place of birth. Because many readers were able to identify with him and see themselves in his position, the narrative was a successful tool in decrying slavery and the slave trade.
Throughout his narrative, Equiano learns and grows from the people around him and the places he visits. He worked for a goldsmith and on a plantation. On his masterÃƒÂ¢ Â€ Â™s ship, he learned about the English alphabet and the culture of white Europeans. He learned about the old testament and Jewish people, eventually arriving at the conclusion that their stories and beliefs were in many ways similar to that of his own people. Soon thereafter, he converted to Christianity. His narrative portrays a man that is both eager to learn and capable of learning. That he was able to learn, grow and change so much must have been a shocking revelation to a culture that allowed slavery because it demonstrated that there is no difference between the intelligence of Africans and Europeans. The reader is able to relate to this, and feels pity that someone so similar to themselves encountered this much suffering in his life.
The success of EquainoÃƒÂ¢ Â€ Â™s narrative in fighting slavery and the slave trade can be seen in its widespread distribution. He sold many different editions of his narrative within his lifetime. He had subscribers from England, Scotland, Ireland and elsewhere. The narrative was translated into other languages such as Dutch, German and Russian so that it could be distributed to native speakers of those languages.
In his narrative, Equiano says that he does not consider himself a hero. He did not, for example, lead a slave revolt or escape his bondage in the middle of the night. His freedom, in fact, was earned in a rather mundane way: he bought it from his captors. Instead of a hero, Equiano depicts himself as an ordinary man faced with extraordinary circumstances. If he had stayed on the tobacco plantations of Virginia, for example, he might have died at a young age, never having learned English or penned his autobiography. It is because Equiano was depicted as being so ordinary that he had such widespread sympathy from and appeal to his readers. The bond that formed between him and his readers made the narrative a useful tool in garnering opposition to slavery and the slave trade.
That fact also makes it a book worth reading for the history buff.