In both The History of Mary Prince and Olaudah Equiano, we see the author refer to the condition of slavery as being no different than, or even worse than, the condition of animals. Mary Prince, for example, asserts that she was offered for sale “like sheep or cattle” (7). While she’s at the market to be sold, she claims that she was handled “in the same manner that a butcher would a calf or lamb” (7). She admits, “we slept in a long shed, divided into narrow slips, like the stalls used for cattle” (15). Equiano, for example, acknowledges that slaveholders “altogether treat them in every respect like brutes” (105). What both these novels attempt to accomplish is the humanization of Africans. Both novels attempt to show the reader that the people they are enslaving are no different than the reader. Both main characters, for example, are Christians—pious Christians at that. Both main characters desire literacy, although Mary Prince is not given the same opportunities as Equiano. Both main characters desire to make a living for themselves. And, we see both characters feel the whole spectrum of human emotions. In short, the reader sees that they share the same humanity as the slave, and the narrative thus puts the reader in the position of the slave. The purpose, possibly, is to sympathetically convince the reader that Africans should not be enslaved.
One major difference between the two accounts, however, is how the author appeals to the audience. In Mary Prince’s case, she emotionally appeals to the audience, while Equiano appeals to the audience rationally. Equiano’s narrative seems more aloof from the constant brutality than Prince’s because the argument seems to take precedence over the emotion that such brutality would invoke in the reader. We see Equiano’s appeal to rationality, for instance, when he argues that the slave-trade “violates the first natural right of mankind, equality and independency, and gives one man a dominion over his fellows which God could never intend!” (111). Prince’s goal, on the other hand, is emotionally relate the horrors of slavery to the English, so that they will abolish it. She claims “I have felt what a slave feels, and I know what a slave knows, and I would have all the good people in England to know it too, that they may break our chains, and set us free” (17).