Homework Help

How did Olaudah Equiano respond to the conditions he experienced in the Middle Passage? 

user profile pic

jakande | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 1) Valedictorian

Posted February 24, 2013 at 4:06 AM via web

dislike 2 like

How did Olaudah Equiano respond to the conditions he experienced in the Middle Passage? 

1 Answer | Add Yours

user profile pic

rrteacher | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted February 24, 2013 at 5:33 PM (Answer #1)

dislike 0 like

Equiano responds with shock and horror to the conditions he describes aboard the slave ship on the Middle Passage. Equiano is struck by the claustrophobic conditions below decks, and describes in lurid detail the smells of sweat and human waste as well as the screams and moans of slaves confined in these awful conditions: 

...the filth of the necessary tubs, into which the children often fell, and were almost suffocated. The shrieks of the women, and the groans of the dying, rendered the whole a scene of horror almost inconceivable.

Equiano is so ill that he is kept above deck for a large portion of the journey, in an effort to save his life (and the slavers' investment in his survival for sale). It is unclear, however, whether Equiano intentionally exaggerated his injury in order to stay above decks, which historians have found to be common practice among slaves, and a means of exercising agency to influence their own situations. Equiano describes the cruelty of the white crew, many of which, he notes, were treated barbarously by the ship's officers as well. Overall, aside from his visceral reaction to the horrors of the Middle Passage, he is struck by the evil and the greed of the slavers, who he, in a passage typical of slave narratives produced for the abolition movement, describes as hypocritical, especially as they separated children from their parents at the infamous slave auctions:

O, ye nominal Christians! might not an African ask you, learned you this from your God, who says unto you, Do unto all men as you would men should do unto you? Is it not enough that we are torn from our country and friends to toil for your luxury and lust of gain? Must every tender feeling be likewise sacrificed to your avarice?

Sources:

Join to answer this question

Join a community of thousands of dedicated teachers and students.

Join eNotes