Details in the Text

            One of the things that we discussed last week in terms of The Interesting Narrative of Olaudah Equiano is the way in which the narrator uses rhetorical techniques sell his argument against slavery. One of the aspects of the work that I had noticed on my initial reading was the conspicuous inclusion of a lot of minute and specific details in the narrative — Specific dates or the names of ships or land and slave owners.  Originally, I read this as an intentional inclusion of detail to strengthen the believability of the narrative. Of course a person who served for several years on a ship would know its name and the names of its capitain. Likewise you would be likely to remember the name a specific person who abused or took advantage of you.

            I haven’t really changed my mind, I still feel that this is one of the functions of this aspect of the narrative. However, reading it again now within the context of this class I also feel that these details may also function to situate the text in the context of well know historical fact, and establish its legitimacy in that way.

            The thought struck me in the 6th or 7th chapter when the narrator recalls the date of his arrival in Georigia? As immediately following the repeal of the stamp act. When I read this before, I wasn’t aware of the stamp act or its historical significance, but through some of the research and history wiki posts that I have been exposed to in this class I was made aware of this as an historically relevant date. It made me think that perhaps the names of the merchant vessels, warships, and even of some of the merchants or captains that are included in the narrative might also (to a person in the 18th century) be known and indicate specific and verifiable truth as opposed to just elaborative detail.  In both cases Equiano would be using specific detail in the text as a rhetorical technique to establish ethos in his narrative. 


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