Paper 3 Rough Draft - Alice (Ya Yun) Huang English 45B...

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Alice (Ya Yun) Huang English 45B November 19 th , 2010 Paper #3 Two of the most striking and noteworthy Classic Slave Narratives, “The Life of Olaudah Equiano” written by an African slave, Gustavus Vassa as well as “The History of Mary Prince” taken down verbatim by a lady (Miss S--------), serve to offer readers firsthand accounts of the authors’ own experiences relative to slavery. Both Mary Prince and Olaudah Equiano had personally been enslaved, and took great pains to share with the readers details of their bondage, along with stories of others in similar situations that had deeply impressed them. While Prince intends to give a concise, forceful tale that provides a general scope to slavery in the eighteenth century as a whole, Equiano’s narrative deals more with the acquisition of a different culture and his attempt to assimilate himself with its customs and tradition. Moreover, the strategies used by the two authors are quite distinct. Equiano appeals to his readers by incorporating a European perspective and involving literary techniques such as rhetorical questions, making the account itself a powerful argument against slavery in his time. On the other hand, Prince influences her readers by making a sentimental appeal with the depiction of the horrors of slavery from her own captive experience. Equiano introduces the European perspective upon the onset of the story by stating that “…did I [Equiano] consider myself a European, I might say my sufferings were great…” (30). With this, he hints at his later establishment of himself on an equal footing with the Europeans, as opposed to the beginning, where he “had never heard of white men or Europeans, nor of the sea…” (31). However, Equiano also describes from the slave point of view that “when I [he] compare my [his] lot with that of most of my [his] countrymen, I [he] regard myself [himself] as a particular favourite of Heaven , and acknowledge the mercies of
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Providence in every occurrence of my [his] life” (30). This contrast between the European and the African perspective is important in a sense that it recurs throughout the structure of the narrative, allowing the reader to see from both perspectives and to learn how their views of slavery differ. The idea of the “European” (38) before Equiano has even encountered the real Europeans seems to be associated with a negative impression, since according to his account it was commonplace for traders who brought European goods to cause the kidnapping of children, who were then sold as slaves. Following the “imperfect sketch” (43) of his native place, Equiano draws a “strong analogy” (43) between his own culture and that
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Paper 3 Rough Draft - Alice (Ya Yun) Huang English 45B...

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