The Interesting Narrative and Other Writings Characters

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Olaudah Equiano

Olaudah Equiano is the author of the Interesting Narrative. He is given the name Gustavus Vassa by a master, and it is by this name that he is known to his contemporaries. He is born in the African province of Eboe and taken away as a slave when still a child. He experiences much hardship in his long slavery, witnessing the massacre and mutilation of many slaves and suffering some beatings and verbal abuse himself, though he is usually "blessed" with kinder masters than most slaves.

Equiano's singular focus during slavery is to become a free man. In pursuit of this goal he develops a shrewd business acumen, selling and trading goods while on various trading voyages for his master. He is also constantly trying to better himself, learning skills like English, reading, and arithmetic in a time when Africans are discouraged from such pursuits. He also becomes a very able seaman, and is eventually much sought-after for his naval skills and ability to be calm under pressure on the high seas.

Equiano is able to purchase his freedom, and from there he goes on a religious journey, eventually settling on Methodism as the religion he converts to, accepting Jesus Christ as his savior. After his born-again conversion, Equiano is very spiritual and wants only to please God. He also loses any fear of death, and in fact invites death because it will mean he will be closer to God.

Equiano is revealed in his Narrative to be smart, resourceful, and hard working. Much of his behavior and adventures are the result of merely trying to survive as a slave with no rights or liberties. He is a very clever businessman, first conducting merchant business to buy his freedom, and second turning his story into a popular book that makes him wealthy.

Christian White Slave Owners

Equiano encounters many cruel men during his many years as a slave and later as a free black man with few rights. White slave owners during this time are, naturally, very racist, and believe the black man to be far inferior to the white man. By dehumanizing the black man, they are able to conduct their slave trade without moral objection and treat their slaves worse than cattle. Equiano calls these men "Christian" in a very sarcastic and mocking way, for they are Christian in name only. Their terrible conduct is contrary to Christian ideals as set forth in the Gospels and elsewhere. Equiano describes scenes in which these cruel masters mutilate their black slaves by castrating them or cutting off legs. White slave owners are also characterized as very deceitful men. One promises Equiano a trip back to Jamaica, but instead heads in the opposite direction, intending to enslave Equiano. Others buy goods from Equiano on credit, with no intention of paying Equiano. In these cases, Equiano has no legal recourse, as black men cannot make any claim or accusation against white men.

While Equiano meets (and is enslaved to) ostensibly kind men, such as Robert King, who treat their slaves well, Equiano still points out that the very fact of owning slaves is not altogether Christian. While Equiano appreciates the kindness of many of his masters, and even becomes emotionally attached to several of them, nevertheless Equiano is compelled to seek freedom at great cost.

Most whites are involved in the slave trade for reasons of profit. Shipping slaves is a very profitable business, and furthermore slaves are an invaluable source of labor, on the plantation or on board ships. To these slave owners, losing slaves to disease, drowning, injuries, or anything else is the equivalent to losing a bull, boat, or crate of tobacco; the only consequence is financial.


Equiano's father in Eboe was one of the "Embrenche," well-respected elder chiefs who set policy for the district. Embrenche is a title of great distinction.


Equiano's sister is stolen from the village and enslaved along with Equiano. While they are together for a short time, the siblings are soon separated. The two see each other again, but again it is only temporary. Equiano describes this as perhaps the worst series of events in his life.


Michael Henry Pascal is an officer in the Royal Navy who takes a liking to Equiano and buys him in order to serve him on his various military assignments. Equiano works hard for Pascal as he rises in the ranks and engages in various sea missions. Equiano is under the impression that Pascal will free him for all his hard work (and all the wages Equiano earns for Pascal), but Pascal turns on him and instead sells him to another man.

Richard Baker

Equiano meets Richard Baker when they are both teenagers. Baker befriends Equiano, teaching him English, acting as interpreter, and explaining the ways of the white world. The two friends are separated, and not long after Equiano learns with great sorrow that Baker has died in an expedition.

Mr. Robert King

Robert King is a slave master that Equiano is sold to, on the island of Montserrat. He is known as a good and kind master, and he treats his slaves well. He comes to rely heavily on the hardworking Equiano, and they develop a close friendship. While reluctant to part with Equiano, King shows his integrity when he signs Equiano's manumission, freeing him. Equiano works for King for some time after he becomes free.

Captain Thomas Farmer

Many of Equiano's West Indies sea travels are made on the ships of Captain Thomas Farmer. Farmer helps protect Equiano's merchant transactions from deceitful men, and he defends Equiano in front of King. Farmer also persuades King to do the right thing and free Equiano after Equiano has come up with money to buy his freedom. Equiano grows close to Farmer. Farmer becomes ill and dies on board his sloop.

Dr. Irving

Dr. Irving is a hairdresser to whom Equiano becomes attached as an apprentice. Eventually, Irving decides to start a plantation in the New World, and Equiano journeys with him. Uncomfortable with living among heathens, Equiano leaves Irving. Irving eventually dies by reportedly eating a poisoned fish.

John Annis

John Annis is a black cook who crews with Equiano on a particular voyage. Annis' former master (who freed him) pursues Annis and wishes to re-enslave him. The master kidnaps Annis, and Equiano conducts a search for Annis, but Annis is shipped off to be a slave in St. Kitt's, where he is flogged mercilessly and soon after dies of his injuries. Annis' tragedy is another example of freed black men having very few rights.

Prince George

Prince George is the name given to a Musquito Indian whom Equiano tries to convert to Christianity. George is responsive, but when the men on board mock George and Equiano for believing in Christianity, Prince George refuses further teaching, and Equiano becomes disillusioned about missionary work.

This section contains 1,152 words
(approx. 3 pages at 400 words per page)
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