Rhetorical Analysis of Equiano, Olaudah “The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African”

Olaudah Equiano’s production, “The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African.” formed part of the publication of Classic and Contemporary Readings publication that was done in 1789. In this autobiographical production, Equiano is very categorical in his mission to basically to convince his readers of the existence of slave trade in the 17th century including the predicament and lifestyle of most of the slaves. Equiano has done well to bring out his life’s ordeal in a manner that makes all readers of this autobiography believe that the slaves faced a difficult lifestyles and subjects of their masters in all ways.

It is the challenges and hardships that Equiano went through in the hands of his slave masters that prompted him to share the ordeals of his life with his readers. With the audience targeted mainly being the American and British masters, Equiano has established ethos in this narrative by the use of several strategies which include, quotations or citations, contrast, comparison, exemplification, narration, process analysis, cause and effect analysis, and argumentation.

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In order to capture the attention of his audience towards the subject matter, Equiano has used intriguing narrations which outline his experiences as a slave bought from Africa. This can be seen in the introduction when he brings of vivid accounts of the African lifestyle and the cause of the black skin seen amongst the Africans.

In this account, Equiano narrates about the customs, food, religious practices, and clothing of the Nigerian Africans before the beginning of slave period. This account of narration at the beginning of volume 1 of his autobiography is significant since it gives the readers an opportunity to understand the lifestyles of the Africans before the slave trade.

The readers automatically are made to know that the author is trying to convince them that the Africans had peaceful lives before the invasion of the slave masters from Europe and America. Equiano is making passing a bold message to the readers at this point that both American and European slave owners infringed into the human rights to the Africans by distorting their productive lifestyles.

This is significant since it gives the readers a basis of judgment of author’s work making them be attentive to the use of evidence and other materials to prove his point. In order to win the trust of the readers fully, Equiano has used extensive descriptions to the African culture of the Nigerians.

Contrast is another device that Equiano has used to enhance credibility and effectiveness of his autobiography. It is important to note that the author has used contrast extensively throughout the article. Comparison has mainly been used to show the differences that exist between the Africans and the Jews as well as the brutality of slavery in the beginning of volume 1 of the narration.

This can be seen as Equiano states that “Let the polished and haughty European recollect that his ancestors were once, like the Africans, uncivilized, and even barbarous. Did Nature make them inferior to their sons? And should they too have been made slaves? Every rational mind answers, No,” (Equiano 43). This comparison is significant in terms of helping the readers to understand the credibility of the African customs as well as the brutality that the slavery brought to Africans.

As a matter of fact, Equiano’s intention and this point of the narration is to negate the intentions of the European and American slave owners. In addition, the author is making a statement of equality within the mankind species. Equiano is alerting the readers that all human beings were once primitive and had uncivilized culture and so none should discriminate against another.

Process Analysis is another very useful device that Equiano has used in the autobiography. The author has engaged into instances of explaining various stages that characterized his life. Equiano has vividly staged his life’s process in categories to indicate how he maneuvered his ways to freedom. This is shown when he describes the process of his capture and being bought as a slave by Henry Pascal who was his first master.

He also describes the process of his education, learning of Christianity and experiences with Europeans during the time he worked for his first owner. This is demonstrated when he says that “I ceased to feel those apprehensions and alarms which had taken such strong possession of me when I first came among the Europeans,” (Equiano 111). The author goes ahead to give a description of how he was betrayed by his first master by being sold out to another master- James Doran and his complains about the situation.

This is demonstrated when he says that “could not sell me to him, nor to anyone else. . . . I have served him. . . … many years, and he has taken all my wages and prize-money. . . . I have been baptized; and by the laws of the land no man has a right to sell me,” (Equiano 176-177). Equiano has used this device to win over the trust of his readers and improve the effectiveness of this autobiography.

Works Cited

Equiano, Olaudah. The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African. London: Modern Library Pbk, 2004. Print.

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