I. The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavas Vassa, the African
1. This book is an autobiographical journey of Olaudah EquianoÆs experiences, having been born in Africa in Eboe as the son of a chief and then kidnapped along with his sister while playing and taken aboard a slave ship. He was then sold to a Navy officer, Michael Pascal, who renamed him Gustavas Vassa and provided schooling for him. In the Navy, he was a powder boy who carried gunpowder on deck as needed for Naval battles, and once the war was over, expected to be rewarded with the prize money and his freedom; he received neither. He was subsequently sold to yet another sea captain, Robert King, who trained him to be a gauger. That skill got him out of much of the misery he saw his fellow slaves suffering. Back in England, he tried to be a hairdresser but that did not work out, and then he was back at sea again, going to the Caribbean. He met Horatio Nelson on this tripùthe one who won the Battle of Trafalgarùand afterward began working to outlaw slavery. There was actually an abolitionist in England at the time, Granville Sharp, and Equiano went to him in an ineffective effort to save a fellow slave, John Annis. Once again, he went to the Caribbean, and this time he became a Christian. However, one of the slave owners tried to pull him back into slavery, and he barely escaped.
EquianoÆs main purpose in writing the book seems to be to chronicle his life, but he stays with his main theme of slavery throughout the book, showing why slavery should be abolished. Christianity is another theme that is not given as much space in the book, but that is apparently because he did not become a Christian until partway through his life.
He ends the book by making a plea for the abolishment of slavery, pointing out that if Africans were allowed to become free citizens instead of slaves, they could vastly increase the wealth of England...