The Conviction of Nothingness

The Abbey in the Oakwood by Caspar David Friedrich is what captivates when someone feels destroyed, defeated, convinced that there’s nothing in this world that holds the remedy for reconstructing their own world. For many, it may seem that days cycle at a neverending speed, but there’s no denying that there are days that seem to feel eternal.

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Woodsworth’s The Convict describes an individual dwells in misery but chooses to look away from it to create a facade that improves his perspective of the world. We this place that are abandoned and left for it to be daunted with memory from the people he loved and who passed on, left to be forgotten, but this individual, this is his home. Not in the sense that he chooses to live here but rather selects this spot as an area of safety.

And must we then part from the dwellin so fair?

In the pain of my spirit I said,

And with a deep sadness I turned, to repair

To the cell where the convict is laid.

Yet, we see that he chooses to be where he’s at as a punishment for himself for not being able to love. There’s no denying that the image is something that conveys that the area has been forgotten and abandoned because people decided to leave it behind. But on the contrary, someone could see this image and imagine a sensation of peace and serenity that not many will tend to focus upon. This used to be a place to rest people in peace, now this is the focal area for one to find the true person within himself away from love.

– Stephen Muñoz

 

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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

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

In God’s Eyes, We are the Same

Olaudah Equiano’s The Interesting Narrative definitely has many references to biblical scripture throughout his narrative as a form of relative content that could be presented to his intended audience. I think he decides to use this type of language because at the time that he was writing this, religion—specifically Christianity was at its forefront. Almost everything people did revolved around religion and faith. And because Equiano wanted people to read his book in order to understand what was so bad about slavery, religion became one easy way to have access to a specific audience. Even the idea of him having theological textual references in his narrative meant that he wanted the world to know that he was educated and that he wanted himself to be considered an equal to the white man. One of the many quotes that caught my attention was:

“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.”

This quote definitely reminds me of the Luke 23:34 verse in the bible where Jesus is being crucified and he says in exasperation, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”  They both cry out to a father who is not physically present to them but is there spiritually. And I think through this quote, Equiano’s intended audience would have definitely been able to relate to him and be more sympathetic to the wrongdoings that had been committed not only against him but his entire race. Equiano uses religion as a tool to emphasis that he is the same as the white man—he is well educated, he is well travelled (regardless of how he has travelled), and also well mannered. To use these kinds of references in his narrative I’m sure encouraged people who read his narrative adapt his point of view regarding his people’s enslavement.

-Laura Mateo Gallegos

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.

Oh NO, Not The Night

Throughout his narrative, titles as The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, Equiano is forced to endure many hardships, which he reflects upon through many forms of writings by quoting parts of book that he had read, including but not limited to; the Bible, John Milton, and Colley Cibber. The one part in Equiano’s narrative that caught my attention instantly while reading it can be found on page 51 in the writing, with a quote from John Denham’s novel Cooper’s Hill, as he says;

“Thus I was like a hunted deer:

‘Ev’ry leaf and ev’ry whisp’ring breath

Convey’d a foe, and ev’ry foe a death.'”

In this part of the narrative, the reader is able to envision Equiano fearing his master and the punishment to come once he is to be found after “running back home” from them. This unbridled terror can be found as he explains in detail how every sound made him still, and “abandoned [him]self to despair” as night began to approach. (Equiano 51). Equaino is using these words in order to draw a conclusion towards what may be his death; or, at least, his symbolic death from fear over his master. When Equiano returns, he is quickly treated to before sold once more, now not seeming to fear the ones who were free, but learning from them until he himself could receive that same human right.

The reason why Equiano uses so many different kinds of texts throughout his narrative is because he wants to show his audience that he is educated, and can be trusted by his fellow men as an intelligent man. By quoting from the Bible, Equiano convinces his audience that he is a devote Christian, meaning that he, a man so holy and devoted to the Bible, could do no wrong! Just as any other Christian! (Please, note my sarcasm. I’m begging you.)

– Jody Omlin

One of the Same

No eye to mark their suff’rings with a tear;

No friend to comfort, and no hope to cheer:

Then, like the dull unpity’d brutes, repair

To stalls as wretched, and as coarse a fare;

Thank heaven one day of mis’ry was o’er,

Then sink to sleep, and wish to wake no more. (The Dying Negro, 112)

Olaudah Equiano was an individual with treacherous endeavors that would progressively change his own perception in life as he grows throughout the years. He challenges through the enigma of what he once thought was never to be touched and manifests his perspective in daily remissions of his life. His own writing is detailing enough, yet Equiano manages to reference and implement fellow English writers in order to be able to have a different intuition to be added within his work. Equiano implements such work in order to signify the importance of either positive or negative insight that has dwelled with the past, and for what lies in the future.

“The turbulence of my emotions however naturally gave way to calmer thoughts, and I soon perceived what fate had decreed no mortal on earth could prevent. The convoy sailed on without any accident, with a pleasant gale and smooth sea, for six weeks, till February, when one morning the Oeolus ran down a brig, one of the convoy, and she instantly went down and was ingulfed in the dark recesses of the ocean.” (Equiano, 112)

Equiano manifests that what occurred to the individual within The Dying Negro poem is similar in sensation to what he currently felt in that moment in time of his life. He, at the moment, had no words to be able to convey his feeling to his suffering yet, time later he finds eloquent literature that is enabling to give him a voice. Now that his voice is now formally heard, he never has to worry about being able to apply a ‘credible’ source in order for his work to be taken seriously. Olaudah Equiano is not only righteous and humble when enabling his input but also manages to change the significance of what it truly means to be human in this world. He was never formally taught in what God truly was, but he’s able to convey that for him, God is one that created human imperfectly, different and arises to the notion that many see each other as enemies rather than fellow brethren of this world. The ability to write is the enablement to speak for Equiano; and his establishment of what truly signifies togetherness is righteous, to say the least.

– Stephen Muñoz

Prayer for Acceptance

Olaudah Equiano’s The Interesting Narrative is littered with references from works of English literature, these quotes all serve to bolster his case for abolition by showing that Africans can be just as intelligent and well-read as Europeans. I would specifically like to focus on Equiano’s constant references to John Milton’s Paradise Lost. This specific passage stuck out to me

“With shudd’ring horror pale, and eyes aghast, they view their lamentable lot, and find No rest!”

                I believe Equiano is using this quote to speak to the miserable conditions that African slaves had to endure when being transported across continents. It is interesting that Paradise Lost is used to exemplify this due to the fact that the poem is entirely based upon Christian concepts. I believe that Equiano uses biblical references to show to the world that he too is a man of God just as much as those in Europe. It also sheds light on the fact that Olaudah Equiano was well educated despite being a slave for most of his life and able to understand famous works such as Milton which helps his case by shattering the stereotype that African’s are of an inherently lesser intellect because if they were then Equiano wouldn’t be able to understand a word of it. This verse also uses quite strong language, it is not explicit but phrases like “shudd’ring horror pale” and “No rest!” An eighteenth-century reader could potentially be moved by the passage and change their mindset regarding this issue specifically because of the language and the fact that the writer was of African descent.

               It seems that literature at this time had a certain stigma around it that associated it with intelligence and higher thought, perhaps because a large percentage of the population remained illiterate, so the fact that a black individual not only could read and understand famous English authors such as Milton but also sprinkle it throughout his narrative gave him an intellectual aura that he likely wouldn’t be able to achieve without his citations. Olaudah Equiano’s narrative really achieves his goal of creating a strong argument in favor of the abolishment of slavery by simply showing that people like him can be just as intelligent as people of European descent through the use of English literature.

  • Evan Klang

A Test of Strength

Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift satirizes a variety of topics, applying a comedic tone to his false narrative. In many ways, Swift’s novel takes popular elements from the captivity narrative. Although Swift forgoes the redemption by faith, they are several passages which appear to mimic the style and content that would have been seen in famous captivity narratives like Mary Rowlandson’s story of captivity by the Algonquians. One such instance, albeit significantly more boorish, is the scene is which Gulliver must relieve himself:

The best expedient I could think of, was to creep into my house, which I accordingly did; and shutting the gate after me, I went as far as the length of my chain would suffer, and discharged my body of that uneasy load.  But this was the only time I was ever guilty of so uncleanly an action; for which I cannot but hope the candid reader will give some allowance, after he has maturely and impartially considered my case, and the distress I was in…I would not have dwelt so long upon a circumstance that, perhaps, at first sight, may appear not very momentous, if I had not thought it necessary to justify my character, in point of cleanliness, to the world; which, I am told, some of my maligners have been pleased, upon this and other occasions, to call in question.

In this crass scene, Gulliver describes how he unburdens himself with much humiliation. In this moment, he suspends the fourth-wall to address the reader directly to justify himself and make a case for including it in the narrative. Readers that know Mary Rowlandson’s narrative, may notice a similarity between the rhetoric employed in the scene between her and King Phillip in which he offers her a “stinking tobacco pipe”. During that scene, Rowlandson writes about the offer in a roundabout way and takes the opportunity to convince her readers that she is too civilized to smoke from the pipe she was once fond of in her youth: “I thank God, He has now given me power over it; surely there are many who may be better employed than to lie sucking on a stinking tobacco-pipe”. Rowlandson includes this to exert her superiority and buttress her character as a Christian woman. Similarly, Gulliver feels the need to write that “I would not have dwelt so long upon a circumstance…if I had not thought it necessary to justify my character…to the world; which I am told, some of my maligners…call in question”. Like Rowlandson, who would have been under the scrutiny of readers looking checking for hallmarks of a good Puritan woman, Gulliver satirizes this issue more pointedly, addressing critics as “maligners”.

This instance of justifying character, while meant to be a moment of tension calling into question the strength of the faith of the author is satirized into a strength of “cleanliness” (as evidenced by the life “necessary to justify my character, in point of cleanliness”). While not directly acting as a parody to Rowlandson’s narrative, it is clear that Swift is attempting to mock and imitate using base humor to play off the novel’s serious tone. The manner in which how seriously Gulliver writes his travels too is an additional point of mimicry, and combined with the outlandish content of the novel, makes for a hilarious and witty satirical novel.

-Sara Nuila-Chae

Swift’s Satirical Parallels

In Gulliver’s Travels, Jonathan Swift satirizes Mary Rowlandson’s captivity narrative. The satire begins in the first chapter, after Gulliver is shipwrecked onto a strange island. When he makes it to the island’s shore, he falls asleep, but when he awakes, he is bound by ropes. When he tries to break free from the bondage, he is shot with hundreds of tiny arrows and he “fell a groaning with Grief and Pain” (Swift 24). After Gulliver learns that it is best to remain calm and do as he is told, the people of Lilliput feed him “Baskets full of Meat” and drinks that “tasted like small Wine” (Swift 25-26). Because the people of Lilliput are small (around six inches), the amount of food they give to Gulliver is significant. Though he is supposedly their captive, they still feed him well and give him shelter. This resembles Mary Rowlandson’s captivity narrative because she is taken captive and is physically hurt during the act. However, after she begins to do as the native’s instruct, she is never harmed again and she is also given food. In one particular instance, Rowlandson is offered her peas and such when the native people were suffering from the same sense of starvation as her. The experience Gulliver has with the people of Lilliput reflect’s Rowlandson’s experience with the natives.

Furthermore, when he is explaining everything that occurred in writing, Gulliver integrates words from the Lilliput people. He mentions words such as “Borach Mivola”, “Hekina Degul”, “Peplom Selan”, and “Hurgo”. Though at first, he did not understand the meaning of those words, he eventually began to learn what some of those words meant. Gulliver states, “he cried out three times Langro Dehul san (these Words and the former were afterwards repeated and explained to me) (Swift 25). This reflects Mary Rowlandson’s writing in her captivity narrative because she also includes Native language words and she makes it clear that she learned the meaning of those words. Rowlandson created an unspoken bond with the Natives and despite her efforts to make it seem otherwise, Swift’s writing reflects her experience (in a more comical manner).

Gulliver is taken to meet the leader of the people – the same way that Rowlandson was taken to meet King Philip. Gulliver becomes more amicable with the people of Lilliput even though he is considered to be their captive because they do not exactly mistreat him. Gulliver sees the people as strange because of their physical features and that is parallel to the way that Mary Rowlandson (and white colonists) saw the Natives – as otherworldly. The parallels continue throughout the novel, but in this specific part, there is much similarity between Rowlandson’s writing and Swift’s fictional tale.

-Maria G. Perez