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The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, written in 1789, is the autobiography of Olaudah Equiano.


Plot introduction

The book discusses his time spent in slavery, serving primarily on galleys, documents his attempts at becoming an independent man through his study of the Bible, and his eventual success in gaining his own freedom and in business thereafter.

Main themes

  • The African slave's voyage from Africa to America. [1]
  • The slave's journey from orality to literacy. [1]

Chapter 2 Summary

Equiano begins the chapter by explaining how he and his sister were kidnapped. The pair are forced to travel with their captors for a time, when one day the two children are separated. Equiano becomes the slave-companion to the children of a wealthy chieftain. He stays there for about a month, when he runs away after accidentally killing one of his master's chickens. Equiano hides in the shrubbery and woods surrounding his master's village, but after several days without food, steals away into his master's kitchen to eat. Exhausted, Equiano falls asleep in the kitchen and is discovered by another slave who takes Equiano to the master. The master is forgiving and insists that Equiano not be harmed. Soon after, Equiano is sold to a group of travelers. One day, his sister appears with her master at the house and they share a joyous reunion. However, soon afterward she and her company departs, and Equiano never sees his sister again. Equiano is eventually sold to a wealthy widow and her young son. Equiano lives almost as an equal among them and is very happy until he is again taken away and forced to travel with "heathens" until they reach the seacoast. Equiano is forced onto a slave ship and spends the next several weeks on the ship under terrible conditions. At last they reach the island of Barbados where Equiano and all the other slaves are separated and sold.


The book contains an interesting discussion of slavery in West Africa and illustrates how the experience differs from the dehumanising slavery of the Americas. The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano is also one of the first widely read slave narratives. It was generally reviewed favorably. It was used as a model for subsequent slave narratives. [1]

The book comprises two chiasmatic narrative voices: the protagonist's naivity, and the experienced narrator guiding the reader through the tale. [1]

The critic S. E. Ogude argues that the book is littered with borrowing, both from other contemporary African writers such as Ukawsaw Gronniosaw, and from Daniel Defoe. Ogude claims that "in many respects Equiano ... is as ignorant of the African continent as Defoe's Captain Singleton and Robinson Crusoe" and that "both Defoe and Equiano build their image of Africa on hearsay, pseudo-history and pure fiction".[2]


  1. ^ a b c d The Signifying Monkey, by Henry Louis Gates, Jr, Oxford University Press, hardcover, pages 153-157
  2. ^ Ogude, S. E. (1984), "Olaudah Equiano and the Tradition of Defoe", African Literature Today (Heinemann Educational Books) 14: 77–92, ISBN 0-435-91644-0  

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