The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano
About the Author
Olaudah Equiano (1745-1797)
At age eleven, Equiano was captured by a rival tribe in Africa and sold into slavery. He was eventually sold to a European sea captain and became a sailor, eventually making enough to buy his freedom. He lived in England and became a leading voice for Abolition. In his writings Equiano painted an idealized version of life and customs in Africa while harshly condemning its slave trade. Equiano married an English woman, Susannah Cullen, in 1792 and they had two daughters. He died in 1797 in Westminster.
The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano (1789)
With its strong abolitionist stance and detailed description of life in Nigeria, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano was so popular that in his lifetime it ran through nine English editions and one U.S. printing and was translated into Dutch, German, and Russian. At the turn of the 21st century, newly discovered documents suggesting that Equiano may have been born in North America raised questions, still unresolved, about whether his accounts of Africa and the Middle Passage are based on memory, reading, or a combination of the two. (From Biography.com)
Questions for The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano
In his introduction, Equiano uses a deferential and self-effacing tone. What do you believe his purpose is for writing in this way?
Describe Equiano’s capture and journey to the coast. What role do Africans play in his capture? What roles do Europeans play in his capture?
Olaudah mentions a couple times people taking a liking to him, which afforded him some opportunities that were not available to all slaves. What purpose does highlighting the kindnesses he encounters serve?
What arguments does Equiano pose to challenge the institution of slavery?
What does the final scene seem to indicate about Equiano himself? What makes him a compelling narrator?
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