Upon reading Equiano’s The Interesting Narrative, one will, in a modern light, cringe and grow sickened by the concept of slavery. While indulged in text, one can hear the descriptions of life in slavery from the writings of a slave. He asks of the masters, slave-traders, and bystanders “must every tender feeling be likewise sacrificed to your avarice?” This first-hand account provides the reader with direct insight into the tragedies suffered by African slaves and likely invoked a variety of responses in its time.
This piece, as well as others throughout history, are written accounts of context. While it is difficult to imagine, there were, in all likelihood, groups who dismissed the descriptions provided in the memoir. Equiano’s writings are an excellent example of how important it is for texts to expose people to different perspectives so that society and the world can change for the better. While this piece is just one of the many texts that outwardly question and oppose slavery in its time it is important to the conversation nonetheless.
In class, someone mentioned the importance of a text such as Uncle Tom’s Cabin in the abolitionist movement. Equiano’s text holds similar importance. By exposing the horrors of slavery to the literate public from a first-hand account, Equiano asks his readers to empathize with his struggles. He is asking his readers to feel for the people who are exchanged like property and address their humanity.
There is a responsibility among writers. Creating texts and messages are vital to the growth and development of society. In Equiano’s case, his writings assisted in the spread of abolitionist ideas and in turn contributed to the downfall of American and British slavery. Not only is the text important for its own time, but it provides readers a unique window into that period in history. To read and analyze an account of slavery from an African perspective is something that is unique and powerful.
The importance of the ideas in this text go beyond its abolitionist roots. If a reader were to take a step back, he/she can see its relevance in the question of human nature. In the quote above, Equiano is pointing out the impact of money on human interactions and behaviors. He is calling attention to the fact that people are so greedy that they impose a system of slavery; a system that promotes the kidnapping of Africans, removing them from their families and homes, and selling them like property. Equiano’s journey through all of this demonstrates the lack of humanity and care in this system and how horrifying it was.
One thought on “The Importance of Equiano’s ‘The Interesting Narrative’”
I’m glad you mentioned that Equiano’s story was just as important to the abolitionist movement as more famous works like Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Yes, Equiano detailed horrific imagery in his story, but I agree with your statement about how that gruesome detail helps us understand exactly what he went through and as you said, empathize with him.