If You Give the Metaphorical Christian Mouse a Slave Cookie

There was a point in time where religion was valued over science, that the beliefs of the great unknown were much more believable than the theories being presented and proven that debunked aspects of religion. It really takes to the phrase ignorance is bliss to believe it that it is still reflected today with advancements of modern technology showing not only the curvature of the earth but what it looks like from outer space (the earth isn’t flat guys and if you still believe this then I would suggest going back to your designated time period). The point being made however is that with religion (for the ones who identify with one) it seems as if there are two sides: one that obeys it blindly and ones who pick and choose which parts of it they wish to follow. For the ones that obey it blindly, especially Christianity, as they attend church and hear the interpretations given to them by another, they become the sheep and influenced by the opinions of the preacher. To be able to read the Bible on their own gives power to the reader to create their own interpretations which makes Equiano’s narrative impactful. While he is taught the Bible before he begins to read or write, the idea is that Equiano is more intrigued with halving more of a conversation with the books, an accurate representation of his frustration as more of a longing for knowledge. The Bible’s role serves more as a representation of the culture, not for the beliefs that those who preach it make it out to be.

 

 

“He taught me to shave, and dress hair a little, and also to read in the Bible, explaining many passages to me, which I did not comprehend. I was wonderfully surprised to see the laws and rules of my own country written almost exactly here; a circumstance which, I believe, tended to impress our manners and customs more deeply on my memory.” (Chapter 4)

 

Based on the quote, he is attracted to the more universal themes that the Bible conveys, the parts that are not preaching for the white man to have slaves. While he is enslaved, the Bible which became one of the biggest motivators for slaves to persevere and hold on to the hope of salvation. Thus, with the abilities that Equiano possesses in reading and writing allows for him to create his own interpretations, even if certain points he was in need of assistance. This is where the Bible served as useful to Equiano, but not as much for other slaves. Christianity is often synonymous with European civilization meaning that he was appropriated in the way all the other slaves are if their teachings of the Bible are coming from the white man. In having the freedom to make the interpretations he is thus drawn to the deeper teachings and not what is surface level which the Christians would use to justify the need for slavery. They can eat up all the cookies they want, try to paint it as a basic human right, but not all cookies taste good dipped in milk meaning that Equiano’s assimilation only gave him a sense of pursing his own freedom and destiny but also establishing the foundation for the slave autobiography/ narrative.

 

-Xotchitl Garibay

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Because I said so

 

Equiano obsessively quotes books and theological works because he is able to establish a real foundation from the problem. The problem in this case is the egotistical educated men that are mercilessly enslaving his people. He quotes their words, to keep them attached to the facts of persuasive essay. In the U.S court case Standing Bear ex real. Vs Crook, Standing bear during his closing statement holds up his hand to the court and states “ if this hand was to bleed it would bleed that same color as yours would”. During this time he is trying to make a connection with the judge trying to give them physical that aligns their perspective with his own. Olaudah is doing the same in an attempt to form connection with his readers in hope to gain a common meeting ground. Using their words he is able to at least draw their attention to facts they already understand, but just not in that particular understanding.

 

-ashley jackson

Holy Home

In “The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano” the Bible was used frequently by Equiano and besides his religious convictions, it served a much more powerful purpose. While he was in the Ætna, Daniel Queen,

            He taught me to shave and dress hair a little, and also to read in the Bible,                    explaining  many passages to me, which I did not comprehend. I was                              wonderfully surprised to see the  laws and rules of my country written                         almost exactly here; a circumstance which I believe tended to impress our                    manners and customs more deeply on my memory. (Chap. IV)

While I know this is not a direct reference to content within the Bible, the two different times of his life, he bonds through the Bible. This is a huge step within his narrative, and he does so various times, Equiano wanted to depict his life before slavery in terms that everyone would understand. Merely mentioning his past, could have led to misconceptions about how his life in slavery was better off. By recalling his country through the laws and rules of the Bible he is clearly stating that neither his people or him lived without purpose. They (his people) much like slaveholders followed similar life ideals just in different ways.

He also presented this idea after stating the kindness of Queen, trying to make the connection as amicable as possible. Somehow saying that a father figure of sorts, taught him the likeness between his home and the Biblical ideas. Besides that, there are many ways that one could interpret this connection, but I choose to believe that in some way Equiano alluded to his home being holy. While in one place they read holy scripture, at home they lived they practiced it within their laws and rules. Therefore, stating that since he had been ingrained with these ideals before having read them, he himself was able to live a holier life.

-Sabrina Vazquez

Equiano’s Works

As I was reading through Olaudah Equiano’s narrative of his life, we mainly notice how he refers back to literature when explaining what he had gone through throughout his life. However, each  time he refers back to literature he relates it to Christianity or always has to throw in a bit of scripture or something related to the Lord.

“Oh Jove! O father! if it be thy will

That we must perish, we thy will obey,

But let us perish by the light of day” (pg, 79)

This piece of literature is a translation from Alexander Pope of Homer’s Iliad. As Equiano is being transported in the dark he is struggling and feels as if though he is going to die. So he instantly thinks of the lines from Homer’s poetry written above. It’s interesting how even through the thought of death Equiano still has literature going through his mind. I believe Olaudah Equiano continuously refers back to literature and Christianity so he can capture the minds of those who are able to read his works which, nonetheless is most likely white males. Just as we talked about in class Equiano was an abolitionist so in order to get across what he wanted to say he had to, in a sense, relate to the white male. For example, he was well-educated and became a christian. Not only that but he refers back to only white male writers which makes sense due to the fact that slavery is still going on and there were little to no rights for those like Equiano. By referring back to literature, God, and Christianity it gives Equiano The advantage of actually having the audience he wants to capture to listen to his story and feel empathy towards the situation of he and his people are going through. I also believe that because each piece of literature that Equiano placed in his narrative was mainly about God and Christianity it shows that literature during this time was more based towards the bible, so perhaps people felt the need to turn towards Christianity.

By: Carmen Ibarra

Stereotypes and Suffering

In The Interesting Narrative of Olaudah Equiano, the author engages with Image #2’s anti-slavery sentiments by showing his own intelligence and religiosity as proof of the human nature of slaves. Image #2 is satirizing the ways in which those people who are pro-slavery disregard and misinterpret both the literature written on the subject of anti-slavery and the obvious fact that slavery is abuse of the worst kind on other human beings. Engaging with the stereotypes of the animalistic African slave and the hard-working British citizen, the cartoon presents an image of a downtrodden English family whose head feels like a beast having to push a plow all day(which was a common way of viewing the slaves, as beasts) and a slave family whose words are lacking finesse but who appear jovial, as do the slaves dancing in the background. The iterations of these families in the picture is to show that slaves, if given the chance of freedom, have the ability to build a happy family and be successful, more so than their owners who despair at the prospect of having to work for themselves. Equiano goes further than this cartoon by actively challenging the stereotype of the unlettered African, instead of only depicting that it exists as Image #2 does. On page 135, Equiano describes an instance in Savannah in which he was visiting a friend with a light on past nine o’clock and the patrol enters, shares drinks with them, then arrests the narrator. This story shows the abuse of African people by the law enforcers when it state that “these ruffians” beat two others they had in custody, and intended to beat Equiano, but he was saved by one who was more humane than the rest. This memory also shows how easy it was for white men with power to abuse the hospitality of Equiano and his friend, then turn against them immediately afterwards. Such a law as one that targets blacks for simply having a light on at night goes along with what the cartoon’s main speaker is saying about slaves knowing nothing of the trifling things of life. They are not permitted to relax for a moment with all of the laws pinned against them in these places. Not only does this memory present the ways in which discrimination of free and slave African takes place, it shows how ridiculous such actions are. Equiano and his companion did nothing to disrupt anyone else, and they even shared drinks and limes with the patrol, but in return they were threatened and Equiano taken away. In the same way, Image #2 shows the purest of familial relationships in the African family, but that is still degraded by the stereotype of unintelligent language.

-Meredith Leonardo

Addendums

The Interesting Narrative does not solely serve as Equiano’s autobiography, but as a carefully planned rhetoric to indict the atrocities of slavery. To this end, he references the bible and various English texts for a dual purpose. He first wants to distinguish that he is not dissimilar from Europeans so that the reader is more inclined to listen to what he has to say. Secondly, after establishing himself as worthy of basic humanity, he establishes himself as honest and intelligent so that his words are accepted more readily as truth.

To this end, Equiano describes his home before slavery and likens his country men and their customs to the Jews before they reached the Promised Land. This reference specifically, is not only an attempt to humanize his oppressed people, but in likening his people to the Jews before reaching the land promised to them by God, he not only humanizes himself, but takes a stab at the hypocrisy of European religiosity. Despite emphasizing morality based on the bible, they themselves are oppressing the equivalent of the Jews. In doing this, Aquino is attempting to make himself a Moses like figure trying to guide his people out of the desert of slavery.

-Kevin Martinez

Equiano: The Allusionist

Using allusions to other literary works is very common in literature, and can even be traced back to the Anglo Saxon period when Beowulf was written. Throughout his biography Olaudah Equiano alludes to other literary works to explain what is happening to him. He alludes to Homer’s The Iliad in the lines:

“Oh Jove! Oh Father! If it be thy will

That we must perish, we thy will obey

But let us perish by the light of day” (78).

Despite it being a mere three sentences of the entire work, these lines help the reader visualize the setting. The story about the Trojan War is known by the majority of scholars of the time, and by using these lines he can perfectly illustrate the setting of his ship heading into the unknown, without having to dedicate a page or two to description.

More importantly however, his allusion to The Iliad  isn’t just useful for description. Because, without these allusion he could still easily recount his experiences, but rather he uses these allusions to highlight the importance of literature, to his audience and to himself. It also seems to me that he is using these allusions as a way to prove himself to intelligence and ability to the audience. As an eighteenth century slave, he wants to be considered an English man and not a slave. He must’ve thought that if he referenced the ame works they read, and used the same words they did they would be more accepting of him. And as his autobiography goes on, and he makes more allusions, he demonstrates that literature can belong to everybody, not just the higher class.

Arturo Raudales

Freedom Through Knowledge

Through his usage of quotes from famous English authors and the Bible, Equiano is able to establish himself as a voice of authority on the subject of slavery given his own knowledge and experiences. In chapter five, uses a quote from John Milton’s Paradise Lost, to attack the poor treatment of slaves, writing,

“—No peace is given

To us enslav’d, but custody severe;

And stripes and arbitrary punishment

Inflicted – What peace can we return?

But to our power, hostility and hate;

Untam’d reluctance, and revenge, through slow,

Yet ever plotting how the conqueror least

May reap his conquest, and may least rejoice

In doing what we most in suffering feel.”

I find that this chosen quote stands apart from many of the other quotes Equiano chose in his book, as unlike many of the other quotes that convey his personal knowledge, strength, and struggles to the reader, this one comes across more as a warning. Previously, many of his arguments have been based upon presenting slavery as immoral and not in line with prevailing enlightenment ideals, but this argument made by him using this quote presents slavery as a danger to society due to the risk of revolt and insurrection. Through his own personal experience, Equiano has shown that even a slave can become an individual that embodies the ideas of the enlightenment and this is not a result of being naturally inferior, but because what he sees as an effort being made to keep slaves ignorant. Seemingly, Equiano appears to present education as a means of ending slavery by showing that slaves are capable individuals when given opportunities from better treatment and that with better treatment, there will be no risk of a revolt or insurrection. But if the slaves are kept in ignorance and continue to be treated poorly, Equiano presents it as only a matter of time before the slaves see resistance as their only option like the fallen angels of Paradise Lost.

-Ryan Bucher

SLAVERY

“Oh Jove! O father! If it thy will

That we must perish, we thy will obey,

But let us perish by the light of day”(78).

Equiano thoughtfully warned that the French fleet were aggressively read to attack. Equiano is a courageous slave but he is at times religious. This Is a surprise to me because those that signify with christ have faith and to have faith one must at times be vulnerable to the chance of failure or defeat. Although he has some knowledge about the background of christ I never saw him to be one that will carry on with his religious side. Schooling for a slave? With this I am able to make the conclusion that Equiano feels superior to others and he proves himself to be. For him to recite religious text and quote it is his way of proving his superiority. Equiano sympathizes with the slaves because he too in some way can relate to them through religion. He not only can recite the bible but he also references other great people of the time. Those that are of higher class do not threaten Equiano because he too is knowledgeable. Equiano does not want to remain a slave which is why he is constantly trying to prove himself. He knows that he is not meant to obey, that has never been a piece of him. He was not born into this hence he will not allow himself to remain with the status of a slave. His heart beats with the urge to be set free, he knows this is possible and is a realistic goal for himself with the knowledge that he does possess.

BY: MARICRUZ SOLANO


The Good Christian

This captivity narrative is a true inside look into the horrors of slavery. In this narrative, Olaudah Equiano integrates quotes from many famous English works and the Bible. When he quotes a famous English work, he picks a certain section of that work that was meant to be applied to all men equally, but is not being taken seriously by society. In the first chapter, he uses this quote from the bible:

“who hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth[K]; and whose wisdom is not our wisdom, neither are our ways his ways”

This quotation is referencing when God created man. When God created humanity, he created them ALL in his image. This quote says that even though he did that, he left humans on this earth trusting them to act morally in his image. However, Equiano is using this quote to point out that humanity is failing at that right now. He is using the faith of his targeted readers to garner their sympathy and force them to open their eyes and take a look into their faulted societies. He knows that during this time period, a lot of laws and the structure of society itself are based on the moral teachings of their religion. In this passage, he points out an area of the Bible and basically says “what about this teaching?” This teaching of the Bible is very important because God gave his children the freedom of will and he expects them to act in his image. Equiano points out that God would never partake or support such a cruel practice as slavery. So, why are the people who pride themselves on their good Christian values participating in a practice that is basically the devil’s work.

-Oliver Briggs