Olaudah Equiano

September 1, 2012 at 3:28 pm Leave a comment

Well, I haven’t gotten any responses yet on my post from yesterday, so I’ll re-extend the offer. Feel free to tell me what you like about this blog or offer any suggestions you have as to how I might improve it in the comments.

Now then, today, as homework for my American Lit class, I read chapters one and two of The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African. Written by Himself.. Chapter one is a long account of life and customs in Africa, specifically in the kingdom of Benen, the province of Eboe, where Olaudah was born. Chapter two is the story of how he came to be captured, became a slave, and was eventually transported to America.

I found this story to be very interesting, partially because it is autobiographical. Even if I hadn’t known that it was autobiographical, though, I still would have liked it because I found it very believable, both in the descriptions of the customs of Benen, and in the account of Olaudah’s capture. I found myself comparing it to Aphra Behn’s Oroonoko, which I read in English Lit last semester. Both books are on the 1001 list, but I definitely prefer Odaulah’s account.

Odaulah vs. Oroonoko

Aphra Behn claimed that Oroonoko was based on a true story she’d heard during a visit to the Americas, but I found it myself questioning her facts or her representation at every other turn. Behn purposely Europeanized her main character and suggested that he should have been above slavery for the sake of these European traits and for the fact that he was a prince in his native kingdom. She also attempts to turn it into an epic love story. The only part of it that seemed realistic to me was the ending.

But Odaulah’s account is from his own point of view, written by him. I’m amazed that he was able to write so well, but I suppose that’s to do with the fact that he was brought to the Americas as a child. Probably he was educated from a young age also, but I haven’t gotten that far. I did notice that he seems to be pretty smart because he said he picked up a couple other African languages during his enslavement in Africa and his passage across the Atlantic. Of course, they may have been very similar to his own. He seemed to be an honest reporter who was also very human. His passages about how he was separated from his sister on two separate occasions and his account of an incident in which he hid from his first master after accidentally killing a chicken were especially poignant.

I only need to read the first two chapters for my class (next we’ll be moving into The Scarlet Letter, which I read for AP English back in high school), but I might continue reading it now that I’ve started, particularly because I found that it’s on the list.

Current Reading Progress

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: page 272 of 466
Clarissa: 59% through volume 8 of 9

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Entry filed under: 1001, Blogging, Books. Tags: , .

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