Gustav Vassa the Book

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Gustav Vassa

Plot Summary

Gustavus Vassas was born Olaudah Equiano in the African province called Essaka in 1745. He was the youngest son of seven surviving children and was very close to his mother. He describes a happy childhood during which he learned - as all his people did - to work hard. He is kidnapped and taken as a slave while still very young and soon finds that he has a talent for the sea and for trading. By being very frugal, he is able to save enough to buy his freedom after only a few years, though his master initially refuses to honor their agreement for the sale. He does gain his freedom and soon returns to the sea, seeing there a greater opportunity for financial gain than any other he can find. He spends his time also in pursuit of an acceptable religious affiliation and eventually finds himself ready to become a missionary.

Gustavus Vassa Summary and Analysis

Gustavus Vassas was born Olaudah Equiano in the African province called Essaka in 1745. He was the youngest son of seven surviving children and was very close to his mother. He describes a happy childhood during which he learned - as all his people did - to work hard. He recalls little of any true religion though he describes briefly some ceremonies in which dancing and feasting were important. He write that his people were circumcised, one of many similarities to the Jewish religion. Chapter three begins when, at age eleven, Gustavus and his sister are alone at their house while the adults worked at their agricultural pursuits. While alone, they are kidnapped by slavers. They are soon separated and Gustavus is sold to several masters for various reasons over the next six or seven months. He encounters his sister briefly during that time but notes that she was soon taken away and he never saw her again.

At the end of those months, Gustavus was taken to the coast where he is put aboard a slave ship. He promptly faints. When he wakes, he asks if the strange looking people aboard are going to eat him and is reassured that he won't be eaten. He remains on that ship for several days until a new ship arrives. He says that the whites aboard were happy to see the other ship and those who, like Gustavus, had never seen a ship in motion under the power of sails were convinced it was magic. In chapter three, Gustavus is first taken to Barbados where he is among the few who aren't sold. He is then sold to a plantation owner in Virginia but stays only a short period of time before being bought by a man named Michael Henry Pascal who intends him as a gift. At that time, Gustavus is called Jacob but Pascal refuses to call him such and renames him Gustavus. On the voyage to England aboard Pascal's trading ship, Gustavus meets a young educated white boy named Richard Baker who sees past the slavery issue and becomes friends with Gustavus - a situation that lasts until Richard's death.

Gustavus spends about two years in England, mostly traveling by ship with his master. He talks of the kindness of the people - especially two women named Guerin - who care for him at various times while his master is away. In chapter four, Gustavus talks about his emerging self-confidence and his waning fears. In 1759, Gustavus has learned about Heaven and requests baptism. In February, he is baptized at St. Margaret's Church in Westminster. Over the coming months, Gustavus is involved in many battles as the French and English clash. Eventually, Gustavus's master is released from his service and plans to return to private business. Gustavus has now met a man named Daniel Queen who has taught Gustavus many things. Gustavus regards him as a father figure and often spends his meager earnings on sugar or tobacco for Daniel. Gustavus plans to go into business with Daniel as soon as he is released from his military service but his master refuses to release Gustavus and instead sells him to another ship's captain, James Doran. Several of Gustavus's former shipmates vow to...
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