Olaudah Equiano Writing Styles in The Interesting Narrative and Other Writings

This Study Guide consists of approximately 30 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of The Interesting Narrative and Other Writings.
This section contains 751 words
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Perspective

Part of the value of the Interesting Narrative is that it is an abolitionist text written from the perspective of an enslaved African. Equiano is clearly in a position to accurately relay the various horrors of the slave trade, as he has many years of both first-hand and second-hand experience. Furthermore, Equiano has acquired an excellent grasp of the English language and the writing style of the 18th century, and so (thinking in terms of his contemporary influence) Equiano is an especially effective advocate for abolition, as he is able to speak the language of the noble men and women he wishes to reach and affect with his story.

While the emotions of initial enslavement and other hardships have been dulled by time, Equiano recreates his emotional turmoil with a considerable degree of skill, and the events relayed bear authentic detail and specificity.

Equiano is completely unafraid in allowing his anti-slavery bias to color his narrative. Christian slave owners are mocked for their un-Christ-like behavior, and Equiano may abandon a blow-by-blow account of his latest adventure and insert several paragraphs of anti-slavery rhetoric. Chapter 12 in particular offers several pages of reasonings against slavery, ranging from the moral to the economic. In later chapters, Equiano's religious conversion has a powerful impact on his narrative. The narrative becomes less about day-to-day events, and more about an amorphous journey to redemption. Once he becomes a born-again Christian, Equiano's faith has significant effects on his story. He abandons Dr. Irving's plantation because he cannot stand living among heathens, and his lack of fear of death allows him to perform admirably when his ship is nearly wrecked, for two examples.

Tone

The initial apologia provided at the beginning of Chapter 1 is important in establishing Equiano's tone. Equiano shows himself to be humble, stating that he is not writing his Interesting Narrative for vanity's sake, but to glorify God, because God has had a hand in protecting him and guiding him throughout his harrowing adventures. He also declares that the Interesting Narrative will contain only the truth, unexaggerated and unadorned. Equiano wishes to establish the veracity of his account because of his motive in helping to abolish slavery. Since Equiano's narrative is tied to the author's stance against slavery, part of the narrative's purpose is to uncover the horrors of slavery for the benefit of cloistered Londoners who may not understand the magnitude of abuses going on. Thus, Equiano maintains a sort of interesting mix between detached observer or journalist, and someone whose perspective is particularly valuable because he was himself a slave. The text then appropriately vacillates between matter-of-fact reportage, and impassioned, emotionally-charged rhetoric against the slave trade.

Equiano assumes a certain enlightened stance in regards to the slave trade, as he must if he is to oppose it on religious, economic, and other grounds. Equiano in particular mocks the "Christians" who engage in brutalizing slaves, as their behavior is anything but Christ-like. He also assumes the form (if not the rigor) of classic rhetoric in offering arguments against slavery.

Structure

The body of the Interesting Narrative is divided into twelve chapters. The narrative proceeds in generally chronological order, starting with Equiano's childhood in the African province of Eboe and continuing with his enslavement and various sea voyages. While the beginning chapters have more emphasis on plot and causal progression—A follows B follows C—later chapters are less regimented, concentrating on Equiano's religious conversion and his arguments against slavery. This contrast is also a result of Equiano "settling down" in his later years, focusing on disseminating his book and speaking out against slavery and less on exciting sea adventures. As such, time is also partitioned differently as the book moves along. Early chapters may contain only several months in the life of Equiano, as many adventures are had and important events unfold, while Chapter 12 covers many years, because relatively less action occurs in those later years.

At the beginning of each chapter, a helpful summary previews the rest of the chapter. Along with the Interesting Narrative itself, included in this edition are supplementary texts, including subscription lists of people who purchased the various editions of the Interesting Narrative, the frontispiece and accompanying text of the original edition, and minor letters Equiano wrote.

The beginning of the first Chapter bears a traditional apologia, in which the author explains the reasons for writing the text, humbling himself before his readers and God. The end of the book contains rhetoric similar to this apologia.

This section contains 751 words
(approx. 2 pages at 400 words per page)
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