Life of Olaudah Equiano

            On page six of the introduction to "The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano”, Robert J. Allison characterizes Equiano and his narrative in the following way:.

             His book is a meditation on power and liberty by one who knew what each word meant. But the real power of the narrative lies in Equiano's perspective. During his travels and adventures in this strange world, he is an average man, as he says "neither a saint, a hero, nor a tyrant,” but an ordinary person forced to lead an extraordinary life.

             I agree with Robert J. Allison when he says that the real power of Olaudah Equiano's narrative lies in his perspective (Allison 6). Equiano's perspective not only makes his narrative a powerful primary document, but a powerful argument for abolition in his time. .

             A major reason why Equiano's narrative was such a powerful argument against slavery in his time was because he wrote from a European perspective, and offered himself as proof that Africans are not inferior and are capable of thriving in European culture. Since no argument was necessary to persuade Africans in the Diaspora toward abolition, Equiano writes for a mostly white European audience. Equiano was not a writer but an abolitionist and did not want to merely document history, but to change his present society. His narrative therefore is of a persuasive nature and reflects the audience to whom he is trying to persuade. Had Equiano written from a purely African perspective it is possible that his words may have been lost. In his vivid descriptions of brutality, Equiano condemns slavery from a Christian understanding of "do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. Telling his story from a Euro-centric perspective allows his intended audience to identify with him more readily so that he can relate the distant slave trade to emotions and beliefs in Europe with an emphasis on Christianity. As "neither a saint, a hero, nor a tyrant” Equiano is able to establish that he is neither above nor below the beliefs of his readers and that as Christian people they will inevitably repudiate the slave trade.

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