Prince> Equiano

I know this will sound funny but after reading Mary Prince’s life story I thought to myself “Now this is a slave narrative.” As it is probably obvious to do so, I drew comparisons from Equiano and Princes writing and have concluded that the differences in style is the root to why Mary Prince’s autobiography had a bigger imp[act on me than Equiano’s. For me, I thought Equiano lacked a raw emotion that didn’t pull the reader to its message. In fact, it was after our class discussion that I really started to understand what it lacked and that is its told from a very white washed black man. I understand the adversities Equiano faced in reaching higher intelligence and even in writing his life story, and I understand why he presented himself and wrote manner. Yet the more I speculate, the more I believe that Equiano’s “white” approach to his life is what stops me from empathizing with him.

On the contrary, Mary Prince’s narrative is full of this raw emotion that Equiano failed to tap into. First, its form of writing is fascinating. From the preface, we know Thomas Pringle actually wrote the novel and that Prince recounted her life to Pringle and he wrote down her memoirs. From there, we already see there is a contrast between Equiano and Prince in the writing. Equiano’s narrative is self penned and written like a educated man would write. For Prince, it is her speech, and spoken words that are written down that are almost choppy and certainly sound like spoken words, yet there is a poetic sense to her words.  In the instance where Prince and her siblings are being sold away from Miss Betsy she writes “It recalls the great grief that filled my heart, and the woeful thoughts that passed to and fro through my mind, whilst listening to the pitiful words of my poor mother, weeping for the loss of her children. I wish I could find words to tell you all I then felt and suffered. The great God above alone knows the thoughts of the poor slave’s heart, and the bitter pains which follow such separations as these.” Here she recollects the pain of the separation from her family using deep imagery of the unexplained. Since I know how the book was written, I cannot help but imagine Prince stammering and shaking through discussing these tragic moments with Pringle. I have always thought it was harder to speak ones thoughts than it was to write them down, and in that sense I picture the struggle of trying to convey ones thoughts audibly to be very difficult and thus how Prince is able to achieve her emotional appeals is just all around remarkable to me. Of course I will not deny Pringles influences, yet I argue that the combination of a sound writer plus the raw and honest detail in Princes recollections makes the narrative much more influential as a slave story. One final thought, I also think that since the story was told through perspective of a poor enslaved woman rather than a free proud white washed black man also adds to the wrongs of slavery. In some sense, Equiano’s example could be seen as a rehabilitation case from the white perspective. Consider this idea ; a savage, Equiano, has gone through the trials of slavery and came out as a literate, well spoken, and proud man thus adding to the argument that slavery can lead to good things and turn the unworthy into the civilized. In that sense It is almost a first hand contradiction(from white perspectives) of Equiano’s message of abolishing slavery. Its an interesting concept or argument, I know, but I think it only adds to my original thought on the subject; Mary Prince, now there’s a slave narrative



One thought on “Prince> Equiano

  1. After reading everyones posts I think we all share the same opinion that we established a more emotional connection with Prince’s narrative than Equiano’s. The details and emotional account provided by Prince were simply absent in Equiano’s writing. That is not to say that Equiano’s narrative was not disturbing, any story about humans being traded and worked like livestock will disturb the reader to some degree. But, Prince’s account enabled the reader to not only be told the horrors of slavery, but, to some degree feel them for ourselves as we find ourselves hoping along with Prince that the next owner will be better than the last, only to have those hopes dashed when we hear of her beatings and terrible treatment. I agree that the way she manages to convey her emotions is remarkable. And I too believe this may have something to do with the unlikely way her story is told.

    While Equiano was able to pen his own tale with perfect English and religious motifs, Prince’s story was recorded as she spoke it, giving a voice to a woman whose story would have otherwise gone untold. She stands among a crowd of faceless, voiceless slaves who managed to have her story told as emotionally and eloquently as possible.

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