Firstly published in 1789, an autobiography of Olaudah Equiano was the first of its kind to impact the world audience. Most scholars consider Equiano’s work as an important part of the abolitionist movement. As a matter of fact, his scenes of violent tortures persuaded readers that slavery dehumanized both slaves and owners. However, some people still consider him a betrayer of his religion, identity, and nationality. In order to define who Olaudah Equiano is in a real sense, one is going to look back to the 18th century and analyze all important events that happened to him, trying to give them a logical background. One will support his or her evidence with the book “The Life of Olaudah Equiano” (2012), which tries to make an objective reflection of this historical figure, and estimate that his contribution to the world society was undeniable, despite his being involved in the slavery trade.
The book describes challenging events, which took place in the second half of the 18th century, when the New World was already invented and assimilated by the Europeans. The slavery was flourishing and in order to make the land suitable for life there was a need for free labor. Africa, as a European colony, suffered the most and African slaves were shipped to the New World or Europe.
At the beginning of the book, Olaudah Equiano admires his native land. One can see that he tries to compare his native religion, customs, and traditions with the European ones. Later in the book, when the author describes his return to Africa, he feels extremely disgusted to what he sees. He characterizes his country as a “land of chains”. However, he feels disgust not to his land, but to slavery.
He also tries to find similarities in religions and people’s obsession with cleanness. Consequently, this “obsession” captivates him and, in a real sense, he wants to become “cleaner”. He strives for perfection, wants to be educated, and starts thinking that he does not deserve fate of a slave.
Soon after his kidnapping, he stops trying to escape. The first reason for that is his passion for travelling. He describes his visit of Tinmah with such a great admiration that he forgets about his tragic situation and loss of his sister. With a great feeling of excitement he sails to Virginia and London. He is driven by curiosity, which significantly influences his future life. The second reason is his desire to become free and rich. Most of his masters treat him well, and he is deeply impressed by their richness. Later on, he faces the sense of injustice, when his Captain Pascal sells him to another owner. He disregards slavery and being a slave.
Nevertheless, the author describes that slavery was not surprising for him. People in his country also sold each other. The author does not justify his people and proves that they did not take it as a natural process, but as a kind of punishment. Later the character deals with slavery as a natural process, and that fact disturbs him the most. During the voyage on a Dutch ship, he is impressed with whites’ brutal cruelty not only to slaves, but also to their fellow shipmates of the same race.
In this particular book, he also raises the idea that the Europeans rejected African traditions. He considers that the European ancestors were also similar to Africans, and they had no right to treat other people like inferior to them. He also concludes that understanding is developed despite the features or skin color. This opinion is extremely valuable, as it gives a background for the future antislavery movement, as well as for the protection of democratic rights of African Americans.
When Olaudah Equiano is taken on the Dutch ship, he is scared and frustrated, and fear of possibility of being killed influences his behavior. Two different sides of his personality are fighting inside him. One part of him wants to escape, but another one is not willing to jump off the board and face the death. He chooses life over death, and no one can judge him for this decision.
During his time in slavery he is given a lot of different names, and consequently, accepts the name given by the ship master. He is then called Gustavus Vassa, and his new name marks the beginning of his new fate. However, the fact that he allows people to call him differently proves in some way that he is willing to forget his old name in order to start a new life.
Despite his indisposition to Europeans, having arrived to England, Olaudah Equiano is astonished with the things he has never seen before and starts to respect and admire them. He firstly comes to church, although is not able to understand most part of the service. He is also impressed that the English do not sell each other, as his fellow citizens in Africa. English people do not seem scary for him. Finally, he lets himself be exposed to Christianity. Pascal supports his interest in religion and persuades him to become baptized. As Pascal is a military man and Equiano travels a lot with him, he meets different military people, which in turn will influence his desire to take part in the war. He also influences his education process. However, as his education progresses, he starts thinking more often that he deserves freedom. When Pascal betrays him and sells him to Captain James Doran, he already talks “too much English”. Consequently, Doran also threatens to subdue him. In such situation, Equiano starts to believe that his miseries are the result of God’s punishment and resigns himself to his new life.
Further after expeditions with Thomas Farmer, he tries to raise money to purchase his manumission, and finally succeeds. Firmly indebted to the kindness of King and Farmer, he continues sailing with them, and proves himself as an immensely capable and intelligent man. He starts interpreting the Bible by himself and realizes that good deeds alone could not guarantee the salvation.
In 1775, he travels to the Caribbean and becomes involved in establishing a new plantation. Some scholars criticize him for being involved in this project. However, he was trying to comfort the lives of the slaves. He risks his life in helping them, but he has to escape to London to save his life. After his return, he becomes involved in the Sierra Leone resettlement project, which was established to provide a safe place for freed slaves.
No one can blame Equiano for being involved in the slave trade, as he was a former slave, and in the 18th century it was almost impossible to oppose slavery even for the Europeans. The book “The Life of Olaudah Equiano” (2012) demonstrates that his personality is very dualistic, as one of his parts admires the Europeans, and another part condemns them for flourishing slavery. His experience and desire to be better, more educated, and free define his personality as a true individual. He travelled the world, gained experience, and accepted his roots and his real self. He could not stand slavery, and he projected all misery he faced to changing the world. He loved his land, but he could not change the fact that in his country slavery was taken for granted. He is the one, who protested against and refused to cope with violent reality. His ideas were ahead of his time; this fact makes him an outstanding personality, and the book “The Life of Olaudah Equiano” (2012) gives undeniable evidence of that.
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