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Equiano

In the second half of the novel I found similarities to our previous reading.

Around 188-190ish he goes through an almost Crusoe-like struggle with god. Questioning if he was being tested and to what end, echos the questions and thoughts from Crusoe. Equiano’s endless slaving, even though he continues to be “free” is like Robinson being unable to escape his isolation.Its was amazing though when Equiano is faced with being ship wrecked. The white men drink themselves into a stupor while he figures out what to do, but then comes back for them when he could have let them die.

Also “The New World” is in a rapid boom. Almost like the gold rush, every white man is trying to get involved with the slave trade which few seem to understand. Equiano comes from a completely different society, but he understands the value of knowledge and is able to secure his freedom and becomes an adept merchant. This however is a double edged sword as he is smart enough to usually outwit those trying to re-enslave him, but it also makes him a target and bear ridicule from white men with less intelligence. This boom kind of reminds me of the whole “get in while you still can” spirit about “The New World” in Crusoe . Finally I really loved his view or hopes for the future which all seem to have come true probably with his assistance.

 
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2 thoughts on “Equiano

  1. Hi Fred – I like your comments about Equiano’s Crusoe-like struggles with God, and I wonder who’s were more difficult or if they’re just too different to compare. For example, Equiano wasn’t marooned on an island, but he had to wade through the priests’ mysterious preaching, and it ended up confusing and upsetting him much more than if he had just studied by himself like Crusoe did. On the other hand, were Crusoe’s struggles with God automatically more difficult because he was stranded? I guess a good follow up question is whether Equiano or Crusoe was more devout, and I’m thinking the former since he would seek answers, wanted to help convert others, and would blame himself more than God for his misfortunes.

  2. I think that your observeation about the similarities between Equiano and Crusoe’s religious struggles is really interesting and insightful. I think the parallels also go even further. Both of the texts have a retrospective awareness intrinsic to the narrative. With Crusoe, we know that he is rescued when we begin the text, just as we know that Equiano will rise high enough to publish his story. There are also similarities between the narrators beyond just their religious contemplations. Both characters, though taken from what they know and thrown completely into the unknown, are able to adapt to their situations and develop technologies for survival. Crusoe learns to make tools and shelter and develops his agricultural skills in order to sustain himself (and before in the islands, he is also able to develop a plantation and become relatively well-to-do). Likewise Equiano first learns to be a sailor then develops skills as a navigator and a hair-dresser and finally as a merchant. Both characters have a conspicuous amount of success in acquiring these new and practical skills. I think that these similarities could be rendered even more interesting by the different narrative forms of the two books (one being written as a novel of fiction, and one being marketed as a true first hand account of factual events)
    As yet I don’t have any thoughts about what we could read from this further similarity, but I do think that it is very interesting. I wonder if there is not something that we could discern from the emphasis placed on this ability to adapt, learn and succeed, or to rise from the very bottom to the top, about the attitudes and ideologies of the era that produced both these works.

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