Paper 1 Topic #4
A Complex Argument
Olaudah Equiano’s The Interesting Narrative and Other Writings takes a particularly complicated stance in its critique of slavery. While Equiano has a (biased) tendency to focus on the good natured character of African slaves, he also tends to portray them as a commodity, a title he immensely fears. In addition, Equiano appears throughout the narrative to attempt to forsake his African identity, leading some to believe that Equiano is complicit towards his stance on slavery. However, Equiano also portrays slavery as an affront to all of humankind and argues against the separation of families caused by slavery. This makes Equiano’s critique of slavery all the more difficult to access – yet – despite his propensity towards an ethnic double-ness, Equiano looks to debunk colonialist stereotypes of Africans through example of his own experience; in other words, Equiano becomes a spokesman for the Africans, showing his intended white audience that Africans have the ability to succeed in society and thus he becomes a major proponent for the end of slavery. It is indeed complicated when, as an advocate to abolish slavery, Equiano seems to reject his African heritage. The name Gustavus Vassa is given to him by one of his masters, a name he only at first rejects. Equiano possesses a longing to be a part of the English culture, often seeking out lessons from his white counterparts in order to acclimate better in British society. Critics will point to page 78 as an example of Equiano’s harshest rejection of his African heritage “I no longer looked upon them as spirits, but as men superior to us; and therefore I had the stronger desire to resemble them; to imbibe their spirit, and imitate their manners; I therefore embraced every occasion of improvement” (78). One can look at this text in two ways. The first is to deem that Equiano believes that Africans are specifically inferior in...