The Life of Olaudah Equiano

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The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano is a narrative that evokes both emotions and historical facts in an effort to persuade its readers of the cruel and harsh reality of slavery and life after. Equiano does this by describing his life from his birth in Africa, to his enslavement in America, to his freedom in England. For several years his work was considered an excellent example of a primary source, however recently several inconsistencies regarding his timeline of events and origins bring into question his reliability as an author. This causes his narrative to lose power.
Equiano begins in his narrative there are several times where his events do not align. For instance he gets the dates wrong when he sailed from America to England (Carey 240). Some historians suggest that Equiano was actually much younger than twelve when he arrived in England. This brings into question his ability to remember events as they actually happened: after all “memories are pliable and … eyewitness accounts are far from perfect recordings of actual events” according the Irvine of the University of California, who has researched unreliability of memory (Costandi 1). Taking into account Irvine’s work, the fact that he forgets when various events occurred, and the fact that he was 45 when he wrote his narrative, Equiano’s memory is not as reliable as historians once believed.
Equiano himself points out the unreliability of his memory, when he writes “but I do not remember” and “nor do I remember” several times throughout his narrative.(Equiano 48-49 ) Although, being honest up front about his memory helps Equiano by building credibility, mixing up dates does harms his narrative’s reliability as a primary source causing it to lose powe...

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...eral authors of note on this interesting subject; particularly an extract of a treatise by Granville Sharp. Philadelphia: Joseph Crukshank, 1771. Project Gutenberg. Web. 14 February 2014.

Carey, Brycchan. “Olaudah Equiano: African or American?” 1650-1850: Ideas, Aesthetics, and Inquiries in the Early Modern Era 17 (2008): 229-246. Print.

Costandi, Moheb. "Evidence-based Justice: Corrupted Memory." Nature.com. Nature Publishing Group, 14 Aug. 2013. Web. 01 Mar. 2014. .

Equiano, Olaudah, and Robert J. Allison. The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2007. Print.

Rael, Patrick. “How to Read a Primary Source.” Reading, Writing, and Researching for History. Reading, Writing, and Researching for History. Bowdoin College. Web. 14 February 2014.
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