Identifying Identity Within Equiano Essay

Identifying Identity Within Equiano Essay

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Identifying Identity Within Equiano
Within The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, Equiano skillfully depicts the life he once knew, and the life he slowly and painstakingly ‘earns’ throughout his time in slavery after being kidnapped from his home in Africa. Equiano became one of the many men, women and children kidnapped and sold as slaves to the western world. Within the text he is a tactful and exact narrator when it comes to recalling the hardships he faced and observed, as well as his accounted fondness of the kind(er) few he met throughout his journeys. Equiano’s narrative is a persuasive historical account rather than a blunt textbook remembrance of slavery, illustrating his adventures in great detail. As a man, Equiano internally struggles with his own self-concept of identity and what his identity is; this is a struggle which increases after his eventual freedom. Once free, society quickly takes place of the ‘masters’ in Equianos life; resenting him and resisting his fight for an equal life as those around him due to the color of his skin. However, what defines who you are? Is it a name, is it your characteristic traits? Or is it the color of ones skin? As a slave Equiano had very little to call his own. Like a pet he was bought and sold, his name changing depending on his owners:
“In this place I was called Jacob; but on board the
African snow I was called Michael[...] Michael Henry Pascal [...]
saw me, and liked me so well that he made a purchase of me. [...], he ment
me for a present to some of his friends in England: and I was sent accordingly.”
(44-45)
The narrative causes questions to arise about whether or not an identity is represented by a name or something more emotional-a trait tha...


... middle of paper ...


...pportunities opened themselves to Equiano. His liberation allowed him to thrust himself into the society that once enthralled him with its wondrous and seemingly magical qualities. It wasn’t long ago that he thought these people “were full of magical arts” (42). This is however shown to be false; even though Equiano later decides to follow the ways of the Englishmen he realizes that these English were just as human as Equiano was. Equiano's identity was much more than the names his masters gave him. Instead it was the way he viewed life and embraced as well as delt with the situations presented to him during his time in captivity.

Bibliography
Equiano, Olaudah. The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, The African, Written By Himself. Ed. Werner Sollors. New York: W.W. Norton&Company, 2001. Print. A Norton Critical Edition.

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