The Interesting Life of Oladuah Equiano

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Evangeline Byars
English 315
Professor Lowenstein
December 2012

The Interesting Life of Olaudah Equiano: Written by Himself

“The Interesting Life of Olaudah Equiano: Written by Himself” is exactly that interesting. The Narrative is full of themes, symbolism, and realism. Equiano’s narrative is loaded with biblical and spiritual allusions. Although as a slave they were not permitted to read and write that was not the case for Equiano because he did learn to read and write. Because he knew how to read and write he was able to read the bible for himself and develop love and respect for God. The focus of this critique is to examine the inner conflict that Olaudah Equiano wrestled with in regard his Christian faith. Equiano says of himself “I regard myself as a particular favorite of heaven, and acknowledge the mercies of providence in every occurrence of my life.”(31). Equiano narrative is filled with biblical allusion. He writes with Christian jargon in such a way that one would only recognize if they are either Christian or familiar with the bible. Equiano often talks about the providence God. He regards his experience as a slave a part of gods providence and although a slave and in captivity he recognizes that he is a most fortunate slave and “regards himself as “a…favorite of heaven.”

In chapter one Equiano establishes Gods love and providential care for him. It is as if he is making his peace with being a slave and the evil that he himself and others have suffered under the brutal institution of Slavery. He goes on to explain what slavery does to a man however he is always acknowledges God’s love, concern and equity in creation of all men. Equiano said “Does not slavery itself depress the mind, and extinguish all of its fire, and every noble sentiment?...if when they look around the world they see exultation, let it be tempered with benevolence to others and gratitude to God “who hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth; and whose wisdom is not our wisdom neither are ways his ways.”(45). Equiano is careful to acknowledge that the wisdom of man cannot be compared to the wisdom of god and neither are man ways equal with God.

In reading Equiano Narrative there is a climax in his narrative where he is wrestling with the question of eternity, salvation, the mercy and love of God. Equiano begins to see his frailties and question his Christianity and his very existence. This is a very important time in his life because so much of Equiano hopes, dreams and determination come from his belief in God. So the internal conflict that emerges is very significant and causes him great anxiety. Equiano says “ that I was continually oppressed and much concerned about the salvation of my soul, and was determined in my own strength to be a first rate Christian… I was much dejected and knew not whether to seek relief however I frequented neighboring churches.”(178) In frequenting churches he still found no real relief from the anguish he was experiencing because he found men in the same state the he himself was in that cause even more wrestling and discontent. At this point “ he began to seriously to reflect on the dangers I had escaped particularly those of my last voyage , which made a lasting impression on my mind, and by the grace of God afterwards a mercy to me:…So righteous was I in my own eyes that I excelled many of them in that point by keeping eight of the ten commandments.”(178, 179). This also is a point of further discontent because he is informed that no man is capable of keeping the whole law and if a man offends at any point he a law breaker Equiano is further troubled.

“During this disagreeable business, I was under strong conviction, and thought that my state was worse than any mans; my mind was accountably disturbed… concerned about the state of my soul these things particularly the latter brought me very low…

It is fair to say that there was a time in...
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