Olaudah Equiano, a native of the African province Eboe and author of The Interesting Narrative experienced the cruel and inhumane life of a slave. From the age of eleven, when he was kidnapped by slave traders, until he reached the age of 21 he was subjected to a lifestyle so harsh that he often saw death as an attractive alternative. Many of his countrymen, who existed in the same, if not a worse lifestyle, did in fact chose death to escape the brutally barbaric and torturous treatment that was the life of a slave. The Interesting Narrative expands upon Equiano’s experiences and walks the reader through a humbling reality of one man’s life. Most importantly the memoirs found within speak for the character of Equiano, his strength in the face of adversity, his undying faith in God, and his incredible resolve in unfavorable situations. He faced slavery on several fronts, in his native Africa, the West Indies, Europe and America. Though the treatment he received and the people he encountered differed, he suffered through each with two ruling principles: “do unto all men as you would have them do unto you”, and “honesty is the best policy” (119). Through his admirable characteristics as a man and the unenviable experiences he endured in his life, Equiano’s opinions on slavery, the slave trade and the nature of Man solidifies the truth that no man is intended to be treated as slaves were and he who invokes slavery is merely a disgrace to the human race under God regardless of social stature.
As a young boy in Eboe, Olaudah was exposed to slavery among his own people. His father, being an Embrenche or chief man in the province, who decided disputes and punished crimes, along with an assembly of the other chief men, often punished those guilty of adultery, kidnapping or other heinous crimes to slavery or death. On other occasions the people of Eboe were forced to battle in defense of their land against other provinces or districts. The prisoners that were captured in these “wars” were made to live as slaves and were occasionally sold or traded to outsiders; however, “they did no more work than other members of the community”. “Their food, cloathing, and lodging were nearly the same” and in fact, “some of the slaves have even slaves under them” (40). It cannot be argued that this is benevolent treatment, to hold ...
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...have allowed his son at the age of 14 man battleships at the simple request of the captain. The master would hold his own kin in a different light. As do we all. This being said, though slavery is abolished and very rarely is an injustice of that magnitude ever encountered, it is quite evident that the make-up of man and his inherent nature remains, only more tamed through time.
Olaudah Equiano suffered an undesirable fate of torture, cruelty and pain from the age of eleven, when he was striped of his freedom. “Life had lost its relish when liberty was gone” (120), but with great resolve, strength in the face of adversity and most importantly faith in God, he outlasted his oppression. His ensuing book, The Interesting Narrative, chronicled his life and the arguments he developed against slavery, the slave trade, and the insights he gained on the nature of Man. Today his thoughts are shared by many, slavery was a great injustice to an entire race and the trading of these individuals on an open market was an inhumane act committed by disgraceful men.
Equiano, Olaudah. The Interesting Narrative and Other Writings. Ed. Vincent Carretta. New York: Penquin, 1995.
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