Vassa's Narrative Of The Life Of Olaudah Equiano

1243 Words5 Pages
1. Authenticity is sometimes used a criterion for evaluating an autobiography. Simply put, some would state that a good autobiography is factually accurate. While veracity certainly deserves merit, exaggerated descriptions or even manipulated truths hold value as well, as they can reveal inform the reader of circumstances unique to the author and his or her relation to a collective, society, and an era, thereby providing a personalized voice to a previously voiceless individual. This is particularly true of slave narratives such as The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano. Vassa’s abolitionist tendencies make it reasonable to expect him to use his writing—an indirect symbol of his literacy and wealth—as a tool for bringing about…show more content…
Many life moments that suggest Vassa has settled as a member of a particular community are countered by other life moments that prove the contrary. The notion that Vassa must have at least considered himself part of his tribe is gradually dispelled throughout his description of his community. He claims to have written in order “to excite in your august assemblies a sense of compassion for the miseries which the Slave-Trade has entailed on my unfortunate countryman” (Ibid). Vassa’s use of “my” suggests his identification with a group, namely, his “unfortunate countrymen.” However, the following statement begins to complicate his identification: “when I compare my lot with that of most of my countrymen, I regard myself as a particular favourite of Heaven, and acknowledge the mercies of Providence in every occurrence of my life” (Ibid). The phrase “particular favourite of Heaven” shows us that even though he his willing to consider himself an African, he also feels distinct and…show more content…
Vassa filled several positions over the course of his life, from the tactful businessman to the ardent abolitionist, the African to the Englishman, and of course, the slave to the freed man. Given this variety, one may naturally come to call into question his narrative’s authenticity. But verifying every aspect of Vassa’s story seems pointless, as the contradictions analyzed in this discussion alone are enough to doubt the factual accuracy of the narrative. Instead, the purpose of Vassa’s narrative raises a more interesting discussion. One might argue that he used his command of the English language and writing ability to create his own story, and perhaps lend a stronger voice to the stories of other slaves. He may have served as a voice for himself and other slaves, current and freed, whose stories were lost by the inability to write, possibly amalgamating the story of many into the story of one. The text is a space in which Vassa has complete control. Within the narrative, Vassa need not reduce himself to one identity. Instead, he can be all identities of his choosing. Inside this space, Vassa is neither oppressed nor an oppressor. Rather, he is a being, a man, and an author who uses the language of his past oppressors to share his experiences and the narratives of others like him, and in doing so, gains the freedom to cultivate an identity of his own

More about Vassa's Narrative Of The Life Of Olaudah Equiano

Open Document