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Equiano

            This slave narrative was very unsettling, but a true account of the slave struggle during this time period. The reliance of Equiano on his master speaks to the difficulty of survival and independence in a society of slavery. It also interesting that Equiano begins his narrative by saying he was “more than compensated” for his traumatic experiences from slavery by his “knowledge of the Christian religion” (42/3263). This reminds me how Robinson Crusoe found religion through hardship. The letter that the novel begins with has a tone of submission—foreshadowing the later episodes of slavery—and the self-admission that Equiano’s work is “devoid of literary merit” (42/3263). Immediately, we get a sense of Equiano’s lack of self-esteem and the fact that he is accustomed to assuming a lesser role. He even signs off the letter as “your most obedient, and devoted humble servant” (54/3263). THIS is his identity, ingrained in him through slavery. Equiano seems to do this to show the irreparable damage of slavery on ones identity. I thought of Mr. Bramble in Humphry Clinker when Equiano accidentally kills one of his master’s chickens and hides in fear because of the severity of this action. Mr. Bramble’s animals that are used to make fresh food are symbols of his wealth and independence, similar to the animals that the master owns. I also found it interesting that Equiano doesn’t distinguish himself and elevate himself the way that Robinson Crusoe does in his writings. Crusoe speaks as if he is a king, as if the events that occur in his life are unique, not occurring for anyone else. In contrast, Equiano specifically states that he is not a “saint, a hero, nor a tyrant,” and that “there are few events in [his] life” that “have not happened to many” (76/3263). This makes his story more general and applicable to many groups of people and cultures. It also gives the author more credibility (on top of the fact that this is an autobiography)—when I read Crusoe’s boasting tales, I found it hard to believe they were not being exaggerated.

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