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The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano' gives us a unique view of the life of a slave during the 18 century. It contains the gruesome travesties committed against the African slaves, as well as the kindness that took place in Equiano's life. One of the overall ideas in this book is his ability to go from slave to citizen, and how he achieved this outcome. Some of the main reasons he was able to do so were patronage given to him, be it in the form of owner or supervisor, entrepreneurship, and a personal value system that kept him in line.
While these all were working for him the overarching idea that whites were superior to blacks was working against him. Yet another item we can grasp from this narrative are the value systems of the people during that time and how Equiano played to the tune of this audience.
One of the ways Equiano was able to achieve his freedom and make his way around the world was because he had lenient masters.
The first few masters he had while a younger boy in Africa treated him extremely well, in one case he thought he might be adopted into the family.? Unfortunately, this ended when he went to the coast and was sold to slavers. Even on the slave ship he was treated slightly better than the other soon-to-be slaves because of his age; they put him on the deck, unchained, because of his health.' Once again, fortune plays an important role and Michael Henry Pascal buys him.
While with Pascal he stays in Falmouth with a man and his daughter. During this time the daughter grows extremely found of him, and when he tries to leave she cries until he returns." This goes to show that people really liked this little African slave, so much so that they had their servants wait on him.® Later on, when Pascal gives orders to sell him to the best master possible, Captain Doran takes him to Montserrat where he sells him to Robert King.° Captain Doran had the option to sell him to a brother in law for much more, but seeing that Equiano was a good person he sold him to Mr. King. I° Due to the kindness of King and the captain Equiano serves under he is able buy his freedom.
Entrepreneurship was the means Equiano used to buy his freedom. He bought one glass tumbler for a half bit, and then sold it for a profit a bit." He builds up a small amount, a dollar, selling these tumblers. " That was just the start of a small operation for him. While wanting to earn his freedom he also wants material things, and ends up buying a bible." On his last voyage as a slave, King gives him some rum and sugar to sell to help him along his way towards freedom." He finally buys his freedom for €70.
Personal values enabled Equiano not only to obtain his freedom but allowed him to learn skills essential to thrive in the world he lived in. The values he lived by were treating others how you would want to be treated and honesty is the best policy.'S When he was still working for King he paid a navigator twenty-four dollars to teach him.' While learning he realized that it might look like he was trying to escape, he even had opportunities to do so but never did. ' His captain and King confronted him after they returned to Montserrat about rumors they had heard about him running away. I Equiano told them that he never would, unless they treated him poorly. I° The captain then spoke on Equiano's behalf and said that there had been many chances for him to escape and he never did." After this King told Equiano that if he could procure forty pounds sterling he would let him buy his freedom. , 21
Equiano lived in a world ruled by whites who thought themselves superior to blacks, be they slaves or freemen. This is one of the obstacles he had to overcome. There are several examples of white men taking advantage of this. A couple of men stole fruit from him and another slave,? he was beaten nearly to death for just visiting other slaves, and the time he was almost kidnapped back into slavery.? The law was against him. When beaten within an inch of death, no lawyers would help him go against the men who did so, despite the fact it was his captain who spoke for him. There was another time when a slave confronted him about something and he smacked him for being rude, the owner wanted to take him back to Georgia and flog him, which possibly could have killed him.
One other thing we can obtain from this book is what people in the 18 century valued. Throughout the entire novel Olaudah is constantly praising the Christian God for the good that happens in his life. From this we can assume that his target audience was of the Christian faith, be they Catholic or Protestant. Another idea which plays into the faith of his audience is the religion of the Igo. It is remarkably similar to the Christian faith. Another idea that manifests itself is Equiano is an ordinary person. This book is the story of his struggle to freedom, and his struggle to make something for himself. He brought it down to a human level, he learned from Ottobah Cugoano that instead of preaching about the evils of slavery his book had to show real people feeling real feelings to gain the sympathy from the people of Europe.26
Olaudah Equiano puts forth an interesting tale from his kidnapping to freedom. He was able to get the skills needed due to patrons that treated him well, which enabled him to start doing some basic entrepreneurship, all of which was enabled through a strong personal value system. He succeeded in the world despite having the law against him. The book also showed some of the things people in 18" century Europe valued in a person. For these reasons, Olaudah Equiano was able to progress towards, and eventually gain, freedom and the skills needed to survive in that time.
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