Eighteenth Century / Robinson Crusoe

Religion and Fate in The Interesting Narrative and Robinson Crusoe

While reading Olaudah Equaino’s The Interesting Narrative and Other Writings, I kept noticing the way he attributed both his fortune and misfortune to providence, and was not surprised when he declared it was an “all-powerful fate” that determined his destiny (91). However, his conflict between “not knowing whether salvation was to be had partly for our own good deeds, or solely as a sovereign gift of God,” meaning if his salvation was determined by free will or fate, still caused him much confusion and heartache because of the intentional mysteriousness of the priests (190).

Personally, I found it particularly annoying how Mr. L—d talked in riddles and made Equaino doubt himself, especially because when the author told him so, the clerk quoted Bible passages that actually did more harm than good since, in the end, the clerk told Equanio that only God could show him the true state of his soul (186-86). In other words, instead of helping Equanio his actions were, in my opinion, bordering very close on the kinds of tricks the white men played. Consequently, I was pleased when the author stated he “was not left to be tossed about or led by man’s devices and notions,” meaning he was freed from the trickery of the so-called experts who demanded way too much faith from their congregations (191).

Additionally, in regards to fate and religion, I saw many parallels between the Narrative and Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, one being Equanio and Friday’s similarities and differences. For example, when Equanio discoursed with the old sea-faring man, the former was like Friday and the latter like Crusoe because Equanio asked many questions and gained new knowledge (183). In this comparison, although the Narrative is from the perspective of a former slave and Robinson Crusoe was from the perspective of a white man, in both the white man is asserting dominance over the black man by answering his questions. In other words, even if the old sea-faring man is truly as devout as Equanio perceives him to be, Friday also perceived Crusoe to be a fervent Christian even though Crusoe doubted himself. Therefore, a common theme within both novels would be inequality; specifically, whites are inherently superior to blacks no matter what the circumstance, which is evidenced through Crusoe’s deception and Equanio’s ill treatment by whites after he was free

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One thought on “Religion and Fate in The Interesting Narrative and Robinson Crusoe

  1. I think perhaps I read this a bit differently. Perhaps the issue here, religion, is not a totally decisive issue. There are no clear cut answers. So, I think instead the issue here is coming to terms with self-identity and belief. I think Equiano NEEDED, to find the answers he was seeking on his own terms. I think this came through the process of educating himself and then reconciling what he was told with what he felt. I did like the comparisons that you made with regards to Friday and Equiano. I found the striking difference between the two men to be interesting in the way that Friday accepts Cursoe’s teaching as fact and Equiano is constantly questioning himself, religion, and man.

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