The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African

by Gustavas Vassa
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Answer the following questions regarding The Interesting Narrative of Life of Olaudah Equiano:

  • Why is Equiano allowed to be kept on deck rather than in the hold?
  • What new "refinement in cruelty" does Equiano accuse his captors of practicing?
  • Why do you think the captive Africans were treated so brutally?  Consider (a) how the crew probably viewed them, (b) how the number of crew compared to the number of Africans, and (c) how the Africans reacted to their situation.
  • Who do you think are the "nominal Christians" that Equiano refers to in the last paragraph? Do you agree with this epithet (label)?
  • Expert Answers

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    The fact that Equiano was allowed to stay on deck likely had to do both with the fact that he was younger than most of the slaves being transported and that he was able to befriend the sailors on the ship. His age made him vulnerable to sickness, so for selfish reasons, the slavers were more likely to care for his health, but it also seems likely that his young age made it possible for him to elicit more pity from his racist captors and for them to be less likely to view him as a threat.

    Equiano discusses the forced separation of families as a "refinement in cruelty." As many Black writers will later note, the separation of slaves from their families during and after the middle passage functioned as an attempt to break down African culture and the networks of care and support that would otherwise have been central to enslaved Africans lives.

    The brutalization of Africans was inherent to the slave trade. To enslave them, it was necessary for their captors to dehumanize them, and as...

    (The entire section contains 4 answers and 634 words.)

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