By: Amber Loper
Equiano lives a life unlike any European could comprehend. The labor and struggles that he suffers through are so beyond comprehension that the best way for Equiano to gain his readers trust, is to use something they already know. Milton’s Paradise Lost, says it best:
“Regions of sorrow, doleful shades, where peace And rest can rarely dwell. Hope never comes That comes to all, but torture without end Still urges.”(Chapter 5)
Everyone reading Equiano’s narrative would know, this place is Hell. This excerpt is used to describe what Equiano see’s when arriving at a new island, Montserrat. This place is more than just a spot for slave trade, it is as close to Hell as anyone could ever be. Using Milton’s words to say this is important because by doing this Equiano isn’t just saying why this place is terrifying to him, he’s saying that these people managing the slave trade are equals to the fallen angels of Hell. It’s obvious that Equiano’s frequent use of quotes from English literature is to show that African’s can be just as educated and intelligent as Europeans (it’s a slap in the face to anyone who thinks otherwise), but more importantly, he’s using the English texts to show Europeans as antagonists (instead of hero’s) without outright saying so. He is illuminating a truth that they ignore: for people who are supposedly God fearing, and superior, why are they imitating sinful, hellish behavior that only Hell’s rejects demonstrate? The readers of his narrative can pass the blame, but these subtle hints will force them to look inward to their society.