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Throughout his text, Equiano’s definition of abolition desired to end the slave trade while reforming slavery into a more considerate, cordial institution. Furthermore, this was illustrated throughout the novel because although Equiano was a slave himself, he believed in private property. In addition, he is an honest man and says that he will by no means escape his master unless he is treated unsatisfactorily. In contrast to slavery as a whole, Equiano firmly believes that if slaves were treated in a more humane manner, there would be a mutual respect, therefore, slaves would be more faithful and easier to comply.
As Equiano’s feelings change throughout the text, his definition of freedom slowly evolves with his time during the slave trade. For example, in the beginning, when Equiano was first kidnapped he desperately prayed he would be returned back home to Africa. He states that he cried continuously for days and he refused to eat anything except what he masters forced him to consume. This illustrates Equiano’s beginning belief on how evil the slave trade is because it was tearing families apart. This also demonstrates how being captivated within the slave trade was affecting Equiano mentally and physically. He was confused as to why he was taken from his home and was being told what to do.
In contrast, Equiano’s perception commences when he arrives at his first master’s home after several days of traveling on the sea. When he arrives, Equiano acknowledges their treatment towards him in the text and describes how it caught him by surprise. He states that his master’s wife treated him like his own mother and that the entire family attempted to comfort him. These kind gestures during his vulnerability are a representation of Equiano’s transition of beliefs which shines a more positive light on the slave trade. For example, when he arrives in Tinmah Africa, Equiano is purchased by a widow and her son. He describes the treatment from them as superb in his eyes. This demonstrates how African slave owners tended to be more open to helping their slaves out and making sure they are comfortable in the home. In contrast to this, when Equiano comes in contact with the European slave owners he realizes the vast differences between the Africans and Europeans. The Europeans in his eyes were unbelievably malicious and treated their slaves like animals while starving, beating, and neglecting them.
In addition, Equiano observes how the European owners ate fish that they caught and instead of feeding their slaves, the leftover fish was tossed back into the ocean. Tossing the leftover food into the ocean represents how the Europeans purposefully daunted their slaves while making them feel inferior and helpless. However, when Equiano was bought by his first master he states the day after he was purchased, he was given a bath and perfumed and then guided to dinner to eat with the master’s wife and the son. In continuation, Equiano declares that their allowance made him forget he was a slave. This example illuminates another example of Equiano’s transition regarding his judgment on the slave trade.
The message this abolitionist text portrays is to broadcast the viciousness of the slave trade. Equiano tends to cope with his sufferings by turning to God and reading biblical verses. He mentions that he realizes the slave trade cannot be good because it violates independence, equality and the right of mankind which God wouldn’t have ever wanted. This affirms Equiano’s realization that the practice of buying and selling human beings is inhumane, therefore he questions the slave trade because God would not approve. By questioning the slave trade process, Equiano develops his desire to abolish the slave trade and reform slavery. This was a turning point because it marks the main message of the book, which is to broadcast the barbarous effects of the slave trade.
Moreover, Daniel Queen was a man who became attached to Equiano and taught him how to read the Bible. Once Equiano had the capability to read the Bible, he became more intrigued about human rights and God’s plan for humanity. Daniel Queen was a fatherly figure to Equiano, and he voices that Daniel paid attention to his morals and didn’t expect him to lie because of the consequences and how God would not love him any longer. Henceforth, the practice of Christianity displays an aspect of freedom in his remarkable journey which allowed him to escape his reality and turn to God in his time of need. In addition, the message of slave trade evils is shown when African Americans are stripped of their identity and forced to take upon new names and traditions. Equiano was not fond of taking a new name when his captain and master renamed him, Gustavus Vasa, he declared to be called Jacob, which resulted in Equiano being abused by his captain. After he was abused, Equiano was scarred into thinking he would constantly be abused. Likewise, Equiano states that the white slave owners acted savagely, and he has never seen his community experience such brutal cruelty. Therefore, the horrors of the slave trade depict the message Equiano is attempting to get across within his abolitionist text.
Equiano is against the slave trade as a whole because the enslavement process tends to be worse than death. He describes the conditions as utterly harsh and watched children on the ship be thrown into tubs and suffocated. Equiano assumed this would happen to him as well and accepted it because he wanted to be put out of his miseries. This confirms that the conditions were so dehumanizing that the slaves were pushed past the point of sanity. In addition, due to the abrasive conditions, the slaves became more unwilling to do tasks because they were fatigued and miserable. Likewise, Equiano states an incident where he was too depressed to eat, so when the Europeans offered him food he declined. Due to him declining, they held Equiano by his hands and tied his feet while they proceeded to beat him severely. This demonstrates the control the masters had over the slaves and depicts their lack of say in any situation. In continuation, since the slaves had no say in personal choices they started small acts of rebelling such as what Equiano did, which was denying food. In contrast, Equiano states a message that if slaves were treated as human beings, they would tend to be more honest, faithful, and intelligent. This goes against the book as a whole because Equiano has a consistent philosophy regarding the slave trade, and the belief that slaves would comply easier if treated like humans goes against what he says. This also means that Equiano is stating that if slavery was reformed it would be more suitable, which is not what he believes throughout his abolitionist text.
This abolitionist text regarding Olaudah Equiano’s slave trade experience shines a light on the desire to reform slavery as a whole and abolish the slave trade. Throughout the text, Equiano tells the story on the differences regarding African slavery versus European slavery. The differences severely contrasted each other in harshness and horror. When African slaves were in the presence of Europeans, they were mutilated and starved to death. However, when they were in the presence of African slave owners, they were treated with more respect and dignity. Equiano describes the dehumanizing exposure to abuse that all slaves will endure during the slave trade and how it affects them mentally, emotionally, and physically. Throughout his journey, Equiano was able to develop his personal definition of freedom and work towards his goals despite being a slave. In contempt of his struggles in the slave trade, Equiano used his developed knowledge and skills such as reading, writing, and arithmetic to pursue his own freedom as a free man. Moreover, Equiano was fortunate enough to be able to gain his freedom while voicing his opinion against slavery.
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