Using John Milton

Tania De LiraMiranda

Olaudah Equiano’s, or how he was also known as Gustavus Vassa, autobiography where he talks about his life, his enslavement, and his work for his own freedom. In the autobiography, Equiano makes many references to other pieces of literature in order to help give evidence or support what he is trying to convey in his book. An example of a reference would be when he quotes “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” which is not an exact quotation of John Milton’s Paradise Lost. 

Equiano uses the Paradise Lost quote to describe how he feels when he sees Montserrat. And while most of Equiano quote of Milton is mostly correct, the change he makes can be seen as a big one. Paradise Lost says “Regions of sorrow, doleful shades, where peace And rest can never dwell” while The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano has it written as “Regions of sorrow, doleful shades, where peace And rest can rarely dwell.” The change from ‘can never dwell’ to ‘can rarely dwell’ is meaningful because Equiano is implying that there is less hope for him than there was for Adam and Eve in Paradise Lost. For Adam and Eve, peace and rest never rest for them so they are still able to experience those emotions at times but for Equiano, peace and rest pauses for him at times which goes to show how horrible enslavement was for him. Adam and Eve something wrong, they did the one thing they were explicitly told not to do, eat the forbidden fruit, the fruit of knowledge of good and evil while all Equiano did was be born with the ‘wrong skin tone’ which isn’t something that is technically wrong.

Equiano’s reference to Adam and Eve, which is a part of the Christian mythology since it comes from the Bible, shows how important theology was in literature. Religion plays a big part in why most people do things; they use it as an explanation on why they do the things they do. So by using it in his autobiography, Equiano is trying to appeal to people’s religious sense in order to get them to sympathsize and relate more to his writing and experiences.

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One thought on “Using John Milton

  1. What an amazing, well-thought-out, connection to Adam and Eve! I loved reading your analysis on the parallels between the two, highlighting how Equiano’s situation wasn’t even brought on by his actions like the two, but rather he was just “born with the ‘wrong skin tone’ which isn’t something that is technically wrong.”

    Liked by 1 person

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