Realism in Mary Prince vs Equiano

Fred Schumm


The History of Mary Prince was a relatively quick read but packed with a huge amount of first hand brutality. Compared to Equiano’s novel I think Mary’s is less poetic but more realistic.

Concerning the differences between this novel and Equiano’s the most obvious would be gender. On page 16 Mary Prince describes being stripped and hung upside down and beaten and that is just one of dozens of similar incidents. Equiano describes white men raping slaves no matter their age and it would seem after reading the newest account that women are subjected to an even harsher degree of evil. The punishments dealt out but the masters and their severity are not divided by gender. On page 12 Hetty dies after a massive beating.

The severity of the punishments and inhuman treatment could be explained by a total lack of compassion, but I think its easier to explain it by the masters viewing the slaves only as property more like an inanimate object or robot. The problem with this total lack of emotion by the masters and their families seem to purchase and sell the slaves not according to their usefulness, but more out of spite and anger. Whatever the mindset of the slave owners the society described in both novels mainly serves to support the owner and exploit anyone that isn’t white no matter their status as slave or free.

Overall I found Mary’s account to be must more of a clearer view as far as the brutality is concerned. Equiano described violent scenes and was brutalized at times, but Mary’s entire life was scarred by her being beaten and witnessing similar atrocities.


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