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Differences Between Narratives of Frederick Douglass and Olaudah Equiano

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The slave narrative is an independent African American literary genre which emerged in the 18th century and has developed into a widespread text genre under the abolitionist movement combining elements of autobiography and captivity tale with the experiences of slavery.Out of the estimated 6000 written slave autobiographies, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (1845) is considered to be by far the most prominent one

Although Olaudah Equiano’s autobiography The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano.

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Even though their narratives have differences these two men did overcome racism and tyranny as their message was being heard, and their ability to read and write led them to be free men and they contributed enormously in the process of abolishment of slavery. There was no doubt that the understanding of literacy as being the primary code of existence and empowerment path. Equiano writing for his story was convinced that it would offer satisfaction to his numerous friends and in the promotion of humanity interests he had learned how the world revolved with the words of literacy. He conceived that for one to endure immortal his written life story was to last as long as people did. These two men were slaves but the yearned for knowledge and literacy. The writer of the African-American had come a long way, with their language exploration and literacy producing literature that is outstanding

This helped in the development of culture and literature, leading to the strong influence in literature, literacy and languages.These two writers relied on their faith in order for them to counter their hardships, reflected in the writings of both men, and this helped them to question the Christian slave owner hypocrisy. The separation of Equiano from his family and into slavery depicts that his faith was Christianity and his devotion of his re-birth which he explained his apparition of the crucified Redeemer shedding blood on the cross.

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To continue, the most notable similarity between these two narratives is both Equiano and Marrant’s choice to adopt the racial “mask” of their captors. As Sisters of the Spirit explains, the Negro had traditionally been considered “a kind of Canaanite, a man devoid of Logos, whose low social status was a punishment resulting from sin or from a nature defect of the soul” (Andrews 1). In short, blacks were considered sub-human, and therefore unable to obtain salvation in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. As a result, “the black spiritual autobiographer had to lay the necessary intellectual groundwork by proving that black people were as much chosen by God for eternal salvation as whites” (Andrews 1). In order for Equiano and John Marrant to successfully demonstrate their potential for salvation, both men adopt the racial ‘mask’ of their captors. In John Marrant’s case, his adoption of the Cherokee mask begins almost immediately after encountering the Indian hunter in the woods. Before they have even arrived at “a large Indian town, belonging to the Cherokee nation,” Marrant has already “acquired a fuller knowledge of the Indian tongue” (21). Interestingly, he learns enough of the language in that short period to fully pray in Native Cherokee tongue. After converting the whole village to Christianity, he immediately “assume[s] the habit of the country, and [dresses] much like the king” (28).

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To conclude, while Equiano seemed to veer off and use his spirituality to convert the nonbelievers, Frederick Douglass always used it to question the morals of human bondage. He was a believer in the "Christianity of Christ"; but he abhorred the "corrupt, slaveholding, women-whipping, cradleplundering, . . . Christianity of this land". Aside from the differences between Olaudah Equiano and Frederick Douglass, both overcame racism and tyranny so that their message could be heard

They learned to read and write, became free men, and contributed to the abolishment of slavery.

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Andrews, William. Sisters of the Spirit: Three Black Women’s Autobiographies of the Nineteenth Century. Indiana University Press, 1986.

Chiles, Katherine. Transformable Race. Oxford University Press, 2014.

Equiano, Olaudah. The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, Or Gustavus Vassa, The African. London, 1789.

Marrant, John. A Narrative of the Lord’s Wonderful Dealings with John Marrant: a Black. London, 1785.

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