Slavery is when a worker is forcefully made to perform tasks without proper remuneration and conditions while working. The act of slavery has been in existence for many years, and in Africa, most of the slaves were often taken after the end of a battle as a prize. In the Interesting Narrative, Olaudah Equiano depicts the journey of a man who is being enslaved to where he finally gets freedom. In his autobiography, the narrator takes the reader back to his youth’s early days with a very well detailed description of life in his village of Eboe, Africa. In the book, he shows us how his life is taken away from him, where his freedom is brought into the chains of being enslaved (47). Equiano goes through religion and enlightenment theories during his enslavement, where he experiences brutality before he gets to attain his freedom. Equiano goes through enslavement, leading to his enlightenment on matters of slavery together with his optimism and pessimism on evangelism. The conditions surrounding the authenticity of the narrative of Equiano shows that freedom is often linked to slavery that was present in the eighteenth century (52).
During the enlightenment era, there was a lot of profound influence during the seventeenth century with philosophers such as Newton, Descartes, and Locke. The age was backed by a lot of progressiveness, education, freedom, equality, and social changes that mainly were discussed during the eighteenth century. According to Equiano’s narrative, the theme of liberty is ever-present together with liberation and equality (58). His enslavement was traumatic since he was a youth; nevertheless, he still maintained an optimism with the belief that he will be able to obtain his freedom. Equiano was a free man until fellow Africans kidnapped him while he was with the sister. The kidnappers were in the business of shipping slaves to Europe and West Indies (61). Many other Africans had been taken as slaves, just like Equiano, from their native homes to be taken to offer labor in different countries.
The challenge of being taken from your home to the different parts to work as a laborer was traumatic to Equiano and also exposed him to more dangers of suffering, which are well explained in the book. While enslaved, they lacked any freedom and were often treated like animals without being taken into consideration 65). As described by Equiano, while “the entire cargo in the ship was being confined together, it became completely pestilential. The heat in the climate together with the closeness, increased the number in the ship in which there was a lot of congestion to an extent people could hardly manage to turn around and they were almost suffocating” 69). Due to those challenging conditions, many African slaves could not survive the voyages to Europe from Africa.
According to the book, most of the people who were treated as slaves were not able to work diligently as expected because of the poor condition in which they were working at most times (74). The shapes often left them in unstable mental states, therefore the poor performance. In the book, Equiano narrates that people are traumatized because of the lack of freedom after being separated from their families and cultures to go and work as slaves for other people disguised as Christians. Despite having been taken as a slave for years, Equiano often told the story of being kidnapped together with his sister to other people while on an excursion (75). It is evident that even after the many years of enslavement, Equiano continued to show the emptiness of how he was taken away from his family and home as something that he had not been able to overcome, just like the many other slaves with him.
However, despite the different mistreatment conditions that the slaves were given, most of them were still able to deliver at their jobs and were often confined by the masters. The majority of them used to say that they had the abilities to learn the manners of their white masters (74-75). While enslaved, Equiano still had a burning desire to become excellent; he was willing to put much more effort into every week’s tasks so that he can land the position of a captain in turn of earning the master’s trust. At the time, trust was something that most of the white masters were not willing to give. Freedom was something that Equiano greatly desired, and he was informed the only way he could come close to it is by having favor from his white masters.
Equiano was determined and had the desire to be different from others. In the book, he talks about how he tries on various accounts to save money to get a good education. He ensured that he had learnt how to read, work some arithmetic’s, and write while also learning the different passages from the Bible (86). Based on this statement, it is clear that slaves are not entirely a problem in society since they also have desires just like any other white person. Instead, society is the one that depicts them as a problem based on the treatment that they get. Equiano states that the people have the same desires just like the Americans, Europeans, and the Indians, but they are made to appear differently merely because of the color of their skins.
Many of the slaves have tried on several accounts to obtain their freedom, but it often came with a lot of difficulties. In Equiano case, he was able to get freedom from his master by Robert’s name since he had accumulated an amount of forty pounds which was a considerable amount being earned honestly (107). Although he managed to get his freedom at some point, there were many situations in which he experienced adverse treatment from the men who were not pleased and did not want to acknowledge that he was among them. There is an occasion where Equiano was at the town of Savanna having a conversation with an older negro friend by the name of Mosa (114). There came the point in which one of the friends’ patrons mentioned that all the negros had to spend the night at the watch house because it was past nine o’clock or else, they would be flogged.
Having been confused, Equiano told them that he was a free man and that he was in a position to do what he wanted because he had already paid for his freedom (139). Even when the negros would earn their freedom, the intention to protect them is not there. The system bounds them to being enslaved, and there is not so much that they can do. The slaves were made to work like animals to get some freedom, even in a deceitful and full of betrayal. When not everyone is being treated fairly, how do we expect behaviors and values that are good? Despite the slaves working and paying for their freedom, they still lousy treatment. The majority of the white men called themselves people who follow God’s ways, both rules and intentions, but still, they barely practice God’s message. According to the testimony by Equiano, while he was still held at St’ Kitt, “there was a white man who wanted to be married in the church to a black woman who was free and owned land at Montserrat.
Nevertheless, he was not allowed by the clergy in which they said that it was against the law that was placed I regard of a white being married to a black through the church” (108). It is devastating when one thinks of how society perceives different people based on the background of their skin color as diverse in God’s eyes. The system has been structured in such a wrong way in which it is not allowed for a black person to enjoy and the ordinary things in life and when someone wants to get married to a black person. The injustice that has often been expressed when it comes to the freedom of the black people has been so extreme, but even with proof of their ill-treatment, it remains difficult for them to win against the white men (142). In any other arrangement, how can they act well even when they are not receiving any good treatment?
Through the book, Equiano mentions that “when you take the freedom of man and make them slaves, you deprive them of most of their venture you place them on your own conduct one in which there is fraud, cruelty, rapine, and when they are being compelled to live together in a state of chaos and war; yet, there still remain complaints that they are not faithful and honest” (103). When the desire is to ensure that one obtains economic profit in their fields, then slavery is often looked at as the best method. When people are mistreated and forced, then they are not able to give in good results. On the other hand, when these people are allowed to take on actions based on their desires, they are in a position to produce good results. Negros can work along with white men and manage to get better results because they have extraordinary abilities, just like other human beings. They also have individual desires to enjoy different things, so most fight for their freedom. According to the Life of Olaudah Equiano, the battle for freedom is something that requires excellent admiration.
Equiano, Olaudah. The Interesting Narrative Of The Life Of Olaudah Equiano, Or Gustavus Vassa, The African.