Olaudah Equiano

Start Free Trial

Editor's Choice

Describe the ship's hold in Olaudah Equiano.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The first description that Olaudah Equiano gives of conditions below decks on the slave ship is of "the stench," which is so loathsome that he is unable to eat. In chapter two of The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, he recalls

the closeness of the place, and the heat of the climate, added to the number in the ship, which was so crowded that each had scarcely room to turn himself, almost suffocated us. This produced copious perspirations, so that the air soon became unfit for respiration, from a variety of loathsome smells, and brought on a sickness among the slaves, of which many died.

The people are chained together, and when Equiano refuses to eat, his feet are tied and he is severely flogged by two slavers. Others are also whipped for refusing to eat. He describes the other captives as extremely dejected and despairing.

He writes of children falling into the "necessary tubs"—a euphemism for toilets—of women shrieking, and of the groaning of people dying. Equiano attributes the horrendously inhumane treatment of the kidnapped Africans to the "avarice" of the slavers, who saw the people as commodities.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Equiano wrote that the ship's hold was unbearable and the smell of the necessary tubs (basically open toliets) was overwhelming. He mentioned that small children would fall into these necessary tubs.  The stench was sickening and very powerful.  There was no air, and Equiano described a suffocating atmosphere. Slaves were kept in cramped quarters, and disease and death spread easily since people were so close to each other and the conditions were so unsanitary.  Slaves were cruelly crammed together with no personal space or room. Men and women were not separated and there was no regard for human dignity, let alone human life.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial