The Horrid Journey If it were not for the stories past down from generation to generation or the documentations in historical books, the history of the twelve million African slaves that traveled the “Middle Passage” in miserable conditions would not exist. Olaudah Equiano contributes to this horrid history with The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano. Through this narrative, the appalling personal experience of each slave is depicted.
He accomplishes his rhetorical purpose of informing the world of the slave experience in this narrative. His use of unique style and rhetorical devices in this conveying narrative portray his imperative rhetorical purpose. Throughout Equiano’s works, a unique style is evident. This unique style is composed of high diction, complex sentence structure, and conveying imagery which contribute to his purpose of depicting the slave experience.
His elevated diction consists of words such as “improvident,” “copious,” “pestilential,” and “avarice” (45). This word choice enforces and strengthens the meaning of his sentences allowing them to convey to the reader at a higher level. Furthermore, these words portray his elevated level of education creating him into a credible source.
Moreover, Equiano uses complex sentence structure that consists of excessive punctuation such as: “One day they had taken a number of fishes; and when they had killed and satisfied themselves with as many as they thought fit, to our astonishment who were on deck, rather than give any of them to us to eat, as we expected, they tossed the remaining fish into the sea again, although we begged and prayed for some as well as we could, but in vain; and some of my countrymen, being pressed by hunger, took an opportunity, when they thought no one saw them, of trying to get a little privately; but they were discovered, and the attempt procured them some very sever floggings” (46). A perfect example of his intricate sentence structure, this depicts his education which was not brought on by a classified school, but rather unqualified human beings who taught him as a child. In this, however, it depicts the complex journey of the African slaves that struggled to become equal. In addition, Equiano’s use of imagery clearly depicts the journey of the Africans slaves, such as “The closeness of the place, and the heat of the climate, added to the number in the ship, which was so crowded that each had scarcely room to turn himself, almost suffocated us” (45).
Through the portrayal of this vivid imagery, the reader can feel the distress of the slaves in which they encountered the journey of the “Middle Passage. ” He emphasizes his emotions, ideals, and thoughts through the imagery. With the uses of this vivid imagery along with high diction and intricate sentences, Equiano successfully attempts to inform the reader of the horrid journey of slave transportation. However, it is not only his unique style alone that fulfils his rhetorical purpose of depicting the appalling slave experience; in addition, his several rhetorical devices aid to do so. Equiano’s rhetorical devices which include ethos, pathos, and logos abet to define and accomplish his rhetorical purpose.
His ethos, or ethical assurance, is conveyed in his level of education portrayed by his sentence structure and high diction. Furthermore, as proven in historical documents, Equiano was a slave aboard one of the many slave ships. With this, the reader can accredit Equiano’s narrative to be a reliable and first-hand source to the journey of the “Middle Passage. ” This allows the reader to believe Equiano as he depicts the slave experience. Moreover, Equiano uses pathos to appeal to the emotions of the reader. This appeal consists mainly of his imagery. The vivid imagery used all throughout his piece tells the story of journey of the “Middle Passage” which is clearly used to portray his rhetorical purpose.
The imagery creates horrific emotions and images for the reader allowing him or her to accurately feel as though they trapped aboard the foul ship as a dehumanized slave. Furthermore, Equiano uses logos, appeal based on logic, to portray his rhetorical purpose. In this, his writing is in chronological order and is comprehensible. The reader can evidently understand his narrative so that the reader can evidently understand the horror of the “Middle Passage. ” Conclusively, through this use of ethos, pathos, and logos, the reader can clearly view the author to be a logical, emotional, and ethical writer, therefore understanding his rhetorical purpose.
However, the complete fulfillment of his rhetorical purpose can not only be reached with his unique style of rhetorical devices; in addition, it requires the unique style of this specific narrative. The style of this narrative includes a first person point of view, the use of passive voice, and chronological order. First person point of view can be seen throughout his entire narrative; for instance, “Happily perhaps, for myself, I was soon reduced so low here that it was thought necessary to keep me almost always on deck…” (45). By putting the narrative in first person, the reader can relate to the narrator as though the reader is literally in his place. With this, the reader can experience the “Middle Passage” first hand rather than merely being informed of the horrid journey.
Moreover, Equiano’s use of passive voice can be illustrated all through the narrative including in the following sentence: “This wretched situation was again aggravated…” (45). Passive voice is indirect towards the recipient; in this case, Equiano uses passive voice, even though it is highly criticized, to portray the treatment of the slaves as a whole rather than to a specific person due to the fact that the horror was experienced by every and all slaves. Furthermore, Equiano’s narrative is in chronological order, beginning when he first boarded the ship to when his ship reached the coast of Barbados. This is done to allow the narrative to be more understandable and logical to the reader allowing for the fulfillment of his rhetorical purpose to become more evident.
Being in chronological order, passive voice, and first person, Equiano’s narrative is set to accomplish his rhetorical purpose. This is aided by his use of unique style and rhetorical devices. In Olaudah Equiano’s The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, he depicts the horrid nature of the “Middle Passage” journey of the African slaves. Logically, ethically, and emotionally, Equiano allows the reader to relate to the appalling journey of the slaves. His stylistic nature along with rhetorical devices contributes to the unique narrative to fulfill his rhetorical purpose which is to inform the world, specifically New England, of the horrifying slave experience.
If thoroughly examined, this narrative politically expresses the conflict between the white slave merchants and the African slaves. Through a social aspect, the narrative describes the efforts of the slaves to survive while being withheld as property. Equiano morally emphasizes the horror in which the slaves had to endure at the hands of the slave merchants creating well-deserved pity for the African slaves. He questions the spirituality of the slave merchants that believe all human being to be equal. He portrays the merchants to be the masters, God, and the slaves to be the servants, humans. Through this, Equiano is able to pose that the slave trade was indeed unjust of which he hopes to inform the world.