Prof. Carla Lovett
18 October 2012
Olaudah Equiano: A Man of Many Customs
The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano describes the life of a native African who was kidnapped from his homeland in the Eboe Province (which is now the Nigerian town of Isseke) at age eleven and thrown into the horrors of the African slave trade. Unlike most victims of the slave trade, Equiano regained his freedom and experienced multiple facets of life that no one could have expected. Equiano became a man of diverse customs and values. However, due to the absence of written records’ it is often a matter of debate as to what his true origin really was. Throughout his autobiography, Olaudah Equiano defined himself as a native African. He used vivid illustrations of his homeland and experiences on the Middle Passage, and was even willing to defend the public’s view of him as a man of Africa. I personally define Equiano as a European citizen according to his customs, personal desires, and behavior. Equiano’s narrative played a key role in a variety of cultural, historical, and literary issues, therefore, the identification and ultimately the validity of its author take on special importance. While reading The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano I found it very apparent that Equiano viewed himself as an African born individual. He illustrated his culture and customs as an Igbo African in vivid details of culture, religion, law, and agriculture. (43-56) He also described the atrocities of the Atlantic slave trade as if he had recently experienced them: stating the smell, appearance, and reaction of his fellow slaves. (64-68) “Although culturally Equiano became “almost and Englishman,” embracing Christianity and British customs, the experiences Equiano shared with slaves and free people of color, and living in a world that did not differentiate between members of separate African communities, led him to consider himself also a son...