Equiano mixing with European Society

Similar to the other stories we’ve read, this narrative takes on a sea voyage type of theme that touches on european society. But what is interesting to me is that the analysis of 18th century europe comes from an outsider rather than someone who is accustomed to the ways of the powerful white culture. As a slave that experiences many different masters while in africa, Equiano finds the customs of the europeans to be very intriguing and at times grotesque. The narrative points out how wasteful the europeans are and how they indulge themselves in dirt when they dont wash their hands or touch the dead bodies, things that would never have taken place in the nation that he grew up in as a kid. But instead of analyzing the differences between the city and country lifestyle and wastefulness seen in Humphrey Clinker, or the relative merits of living in this style of culture vs. isolation like in Robinson Crusoe, Equiano uses the grotesque nature of European culture to point out how uncivilized Europe really is. He uses this as a way to show the europeans how although uneducated in european history, the african people are capable of being human in the same way as they are, if not more.
What is also interesting to me is that the longer equiano stays in the european culture, the more accustomed he becomes to european ways. As a slave he eventually wants to learn how to read, he wants to engage in sea battle, and he wants to become baptized. Engaging in the sea battle and becoming baptized are things that his masters discourage. This could be further indication of how the africans may actually strive to be better people that the white europeans in the eyes of Equiano. It also sort of contradicts some of the ideas seen in Humphrey Clinker about social mixing. Instead of social mixing being viewed as a negative and a source of consumption societies residual, Equiano strives to gain from the better parts of European society. He tends to focus more on the positive part of society and how they can benefit him even in his low status than mathew bramble does in his higher status within european society.


One thought on “Equiano mixing with European Society

  1. I completely agree that Equiano raises issues about whether English culture is actually civilized. Do you think that Equiano is being insincere or sarcastic when he praises English culture? I think Equiano’s problem is not so much the values of English culture as much as the fact that the English no longer put those values into practice. They value Christianity, for example, but don’t practice its tenets. I don’t think Equiano is trying to make English culture inferior to African culture, but I do think he is trying to point out the irony of Christians practicing slavery and other unwholesome acts, while the supposed brute is practicing Christianity wholeheartedly and yet is being subjugated.

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