Amitav Ghosh the Hungry Tide and the Interesting Narrative of Olaudah Equiano

Topics: Ocean, Olaudah Equiano, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano Pages: 13 (5081 words) Published: May 10, 2012
Both The Hungry Tide and The Interesting Narrative Of Olaudah Equiano are tales of sociological hardships combined with a life bound to the sea. The ocean plays a significant role in the text offering disempowerment to some whilst empowering others. In The Interesting Narrative the slave trade was in full swing and a capitalist attitude heavily dominates the text, whilst in The Hungry Tide capitalism plays a smaller role and the humanitarian backdrop of the story is a more central theme. In this essay I will draw into focus the various ways in which the ocean is represented as empowering and disempowering to the lives of characters looking at them as they develop through the text and contrasting their empowerment against that of others. These themes will involve the effects of the ocean on traditional communities, the ocean as a tool for capitalist purposes and the empowerment of the ocean in relation to a spiritual life. Both of these texts were written with humanitarian objectives in mind and so I will also conclude on how the empowering or disempowering effects of the ocean are used towards such purposes. By exploring these themes I will come to a conclusion as to whether there is a pattern in the empowering or disempowering aspects of the ocean or whether there is something else at work. The African community finds the ocean heavily disempowering, as it is what separates them from their homeland and families. In his first experience at sea Equiano notes his despair ‘I now saw myself as deprived of all chance of returning to my native country, or even the least glimpse of hope of gaining the shore.’[1] Equiano uses the words ‘deprived’[2] and talks of the loss of hope which clearly express the disempowerment he experiences by the ocean. The ocean for him is an entirely unfamiliar territory, which leaves him very isolated and Equiano recognizes that it is at sea that all hope of being reunited with his family is lost, as on land there was at least the possibility to travel back home. The ocean therefore can be seen as disempowering to the traditional African people as it is the means by which African people are definitively removed from their homeland and families. Conversely the settlers in The Hungry Tide see the ocean as an empowering constitution to the traditional people’s lives. This is to the extent that when they are apart from it they feel highly disempowered. On talking of life on the mainland Kusum says ‘no matter how we tried, we just couldn’t settle there: rivers ran in our heads, the tides were in our blood.’[3] The ocean is part of their homeland and to be removed is disempowering. Nishi Pulugurtha supports this saying that ‘the people had always been a part of that environment.’[4] It is something that all the settlers felt and the healthy community that the sea offers them is seen in Kusums description; ‘These were my people […] they too had hankered for our tide country mud; they too had longed to watch the tide rise to full flood.’[5] The description here of mud and a tide at full flood connotes the healthy environment that the tide country offers the settlers. The ocean can therefore be seen as highly empowering to the settler’s community. To be separated from the ocean results in the same feelings of depravity experienced by Equiano when he is first at sea. However, whilst the ocean to the settlers is a place of freedom and empowerment to the community, the modern forces use the ocean to reverse this empowerment and make the sea a place of disempowerment in order to fit their objectives. The government used the ocean to imprison the settlers on the island by setting up a policed perimeter on the ocean, effectively keeping them captive. ‘Marichjhapi was now completely encircled by police boats; it was all but impossible to get in or out.’[6] Words like ‘completely encircled’[7] and ‘impossible to get in or out’[8] are highly disempowering words and...

Bibliography: Primary Sources
Equiano, Olaudah, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano or, Gustavus Vassa, the African (New York: Modern Library Classics, 2004)
Ghosh, Amitav, The Hungry Tide (London: HarperCollins Publishers, 2005)
Secondary Sources
Caretta, Vincent, The Interesting Narrative and Other Writings (London: Penguin Classics, 2003)
Curtis, K, 2010
Haynes, Carolyn A., Divine Destiny: Gender and Race in Nineteenth-Century Protestantism (Mississippi: Mississippi University Press, 2008)
Klingel, Gilbert C., The Ocean Island (Inagua) (New York: Doubleday & Company, 1961)
[1] Olaudah Equiano, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano or, Gustavus Vassa, the African (New York: Modern Library Classics, 2004), p. 35.
[2] Olaudah Equiano, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano or, Gustavus Vassa, the African (New York: Modern Library Classics, 2004), p. 35.
[3] Amitav Ghosh, The Hungry Tide (London: HarperCollins Publishers, 2005), p.165.
[5] Amitav Ghosh, The Hungry Tide (London: HarperCollins Publishers, 2005), p. 165.
[6] Amitav Ghosh, The Hungry Tide (London: HarperCollins Publishers, 2005), p. 276.
[7] Amitav Ghosh, The Hungry Tide (London: HarperCollins Publishers, 2005), p. 276.
[8] Amitav Ghosh, The Hungry Tide (London: HarperCollins Publishers, 2005), p. 276.
[10] Olaudah Equiano, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano or, Gustavus Vassa, the African (New York: Modern Library Classics, 2004), p. 86.
[11] Gilbert C. Klingel, The Ocean Island (Inagua) (New York: Doubleday & Company, 1961), p. 210.
[12] Olaudah Equiano, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano or, Gustavus Vassa, the African (New York: Modern Library Classics, 2004), p. 99.
[13] Olaudah Equiano, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano or, Gustavus Vassa, the African (New York: Modern Library Classics, 2004), p. 99.
[14] Olaudah Equiano, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano or, Gustavus Vassa, the African (New York: Modern Library Classics, 2004), p. 99.
[15] Olaudah Equiano, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano or, Gustavus Vassa, the African (New York: Modern Library Classics, 2004), p. 74.
[16] Olaudah Equiano, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano or, Gustavus Vassa, the African (New York: Modern Library Classics, 2004), p. 72.
[17] Olaudah Equiano, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano or, Gustavus Vassa, the African (New York: Modern Library Classics, 2004), p. 68.
[18] Curtis, K, 2010. The Atlantic System: Africa, The Americas, and Europe, 1550-1807. Voyages in World History, 2, 567.
[19] Olaudah Equiano, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano or, Gustavus Vassa, the African (New York: Modern Library Classics, 2004), p. 56
[20] Amitav Ghosh, The Hungry Tide (London: HarperCollins Publishers, 2005), p
[21] Amitav Ghosh, The Hungry Tide (London: HarperCollins Publishers, 2005), p. 45.
[22] Divya Anand, Locating the Politics of the Environment and the Exploited in Amitav Ghosh 's The Hungry Tide, Essays in Ecocriticism ed. Rayson K. Alex, Nirmaldasan, Nirmal Selvamony (New Delhi: OSLE- India Chennai, 2007), p. 164.
[23] Olaudah Equiano, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano or, Gustavus Vassa, the African (New York: Modern Library Classics, 2004), p. 62.
[24] Vincent Caretta, The Interesting Narrative and Other Writings (London: Penguin Classics, 2003), p. xvii.
[25] Olaudah Equiano, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano or, Gustavus Vassa, the African (New York: Modern Library Classics, 2004), p. 62.
[26] Seda Canpolat, Olaudah Equiano: A Rudimentary Double Consciousness (Grin Verlag: Munich, 2008), p. 11.
[27] Gesa Mackenthun, Fictions of the Black Atlantic in American Foundational Literature (London: Taylor & Francis, 2007), p. 26.
[28] Amitav Ghosh, The Hungry Tide (London: HarperCollins Publishers, 2005), p. 10.
[29]Debashree Dattaray, Re-thinking ‘Diaspora’: A Post-Colonial Reading of The Hungry Tide and A Fine Balance, Amitav Ghosh: Critical Essays ed. Bibhash Choudhury (New Delhi: Asoke K. Ghosh, 2009), p. 144.
[30] Olaudah Equiano, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano or, Gustavus Vassa, the African (New York: Modern Library Classics, 2004), p. 165.
[31] Olaudah Equiano, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano or, Gustavus Vassa, the African (New York: Modern Library Classics, 2004), p. 165.
[32] Seda Canpolat, Olaudah Equiano: A Rudimentary Double Consciousness (Grin Verlag: Munich, 2008), p. 10.
[33] Amitav Ghosh, The Hungry Tide (London: HarperCollins Publishers, 2005), p. 323.
[34] Amitav Ghosh, The Hungry Tide (London: HarperCollins Publishers, 2005), p. 324.
[35] Debashree Dattaray, Re-thinking ‘Diaspora’: A Post-Colonial Reading of The Hungry Tide and A Fine Balance, Amitav Ghosh: Critical Essays ed. Bibhash Choudhury (New Delhi: Asoke K. Ghosh, 2009), p. 151.
[36] Gesa Mackenthun, Fictions of the Black Atlantic in American Foundational Literature (London: Taylor & Francis, 2007), p. 29.
[37] Curtis, K, 2010. The Atlantic System: Africa, The Americas, and Europe, 1550-1807. Voyages in World History, 2, 560.
[38] Amitav Ghosh, The Hungry Tide (London: HarperCollins Publishers, 2005), p. 328.
[39] Amitav Ghosh, The Hungry Tide (London: HarperCollins Publishers, 2005), p. 334.
[40] Annette Kolodny, Rethinking the “Ecological Indian”: A Penobscot Precursor- journal, Maine 's Place in the Environmental Imagination, Ed. Michael D. Burke (Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2008), p. 19.
[41] Amitav Ghosh, The Hungry Tide (London: HarperCollins Publishers, 2005), p. 267.
[42] Olaudah Equiano, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano or, Gustavus Vassa, the African (New York: Modern Library Classics, 2004), p. 159.
[43]Carolyn A. Haynes, Divine Destiny: Gender and Race in Nineteenth-Century Protestantism (Mississippi: Mississippi University Press, 2008), p. 2.
[44] Amitav Ghosh, The Hungry Tide (London: HarperCollins Publishers, 2005), p. 390.
[45] Olaudah Equiano, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano or, Gustavus Vassa, the African (New York: Modern Library Classics, 2004), p. 62.
[46] Olaudah Equiano, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano or, Gustavus Vassa, the African (New York: Modern Library Classics, 2004), p. 62.
[47]Seda Canpolat, Olaudah Equiano: A Rudimentary Double Consciousness (Grin Verlag: Munich, 2008), p. 11.
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