Equiano and Style

Olaudah Equiano is an individual who seeks to appeal to the sentiments of his readers. He uses first person narration, and discusses the events that have happened within his life, as if he were recalling the past life in which Equiano lived before becoming enslaved. His story and the details of the plot are very vivid and descriptive.
It is first important to discuss the method Equiano uses in order to narrate his narrative. He tells the story as if he is remembering the past. He first starts his novel by recounting life in Guinea, West Africa before becoming enslaved and traveling to the West Indies. He describes his life before coming to the West Indies and enslavement, as very simple, and it is inferred that Equiano was unaware or unfamiliar with the world outside his community. Even the names and events in the story in which the narrator describes provide credibility. In understanding Equiano’s style, it is important to note the literary techniques in which Ian Watts discusses that are significant to the rise of the novel. For example, Ian Watts’s biggest discussion is on style, and the ways in which the authors of novels discuss topics, whose purpose is to provide a “realistic affect. “For example, Watts notes, “The novel’s plot is also distinguished from most previous fiction by its use of past experience as the cause of present action: a causal connection operating through time replaces the reliance of earlier narratives and disguises and coincident, and this tends to give the novel a much more cohesive structure” (22). This novel is definitely told in time sequenced method, from the beginning before the main character was enslaved to the time he was placed in captivity.
The narrator’s use of word choice and diction is important. The narrator often draws on the sympathy of his readers by appealing to their Christian values. For example, within the beginning of the novel, Equiano states,
“I believe it is difficult for those who publish their own memoirs to escape the imputation of vanity; nor is this the only disadvantage under which they labour; it is also their misfortune, that whatever is uncommon is rarely, if ever, believed; and what is obvious we are apt to turn from with disgust, and to charge the writer with impertinence. People generally think those memoirs only worthy to be read or remembered which abound in great or striking events; those, in short, which in a high degree excite either admiration or pity: all others they consign to contempt and oblivion. It is, therefore, I confess, not a little hazardous, in a private and obscure individual, and a stranger too, thus to solicit the indulgent attention of the public; especially when I own I offer here the history of neither saint, a hero, nor a tyrant…I regard myself as a particular favourite of Heaven, and acknowledge the mercies of Providence in every occurrence of my life…” (31).
Hence, the author seeks to gain credibility among his readers.
The author uses powerful diction to discuss the events within his life. For example, when discussing his life in Guinea, he uses terms such as “admiration,” “pity,” “oblivion” to describe the life he lived before becoming enslaved (31). The author even states, “obscure individual” (31). These terms denote unfamiliarity with the customs outside his neighboring community. When the author describes his being taken captive. He uses terms such as “unknown,” “terror,” “horror,” “astonishment,” “horrible,” when he describes when he was placed on a ship after being enslaved (55). These terms definitely paint a mental picture for readers.
In my opinion, Equiano’s style is worth noting. His use of narration and the diction in which he uses to recount his experiences, definitely create sympathy for readers.

Question of Audience

When reading Roxana, the reader is immediately aware of the significance of audience. We are immediately, sparked pose the question, “Who is the author’s audience? And what purpose is the author writing?” This audience awareness is definitely a tool used by Defoe, when telling his story of Roxana. As seen in the fact that Roxana is told from a first-person point of view. When Roxana seems to recount her life she implores the idea of playing with “words and their referents” so termed by Ian Watts. She does so to justify and prove the reasons she has engaged in the actions she has done to her readers. Roxana is able to intentionally phrase, her words in a way to her advantage. These phrasings and terms may not necessarily refer to the objects as they really are. She does so when referring to her Landlord as her gentleman (37), her wealth (140), and her morality (38, 64, 118) all these seem to be the gist of Roxana’s attempt to convince her audience.
After doing some reading, I came across an article written by David Bartholomae entitled, “Inventing the University.” It is here that we learn the features of a skilled writing versus a basic writer. In this article, Bartholomae explores the significance of audience awareness as being a key characteristic that distinguishes a skilled writer from a basic writer. For example, Bartholomae writes when discussing the challenges of composition writers and their challenge of writing to their audience, “One of the common assumptions of both composition research and composition teaching is that at some “stage” in the process of composing an essay a writer’s ideas or his motives must be tailored to the needs and expectations of his audience. A writer has to “build bridges” between his point of view and his readers. He has to anticipate and acknowledge his readers’ assumptions and biases. He must begin with “common points of departure” before introducing new or controversial arguments” Bartholomae adds, “Writers who can successfully manipulate an audience (or to use a less pointed language, writers who can accommodate their motives to their readers/ expectation) are writers who can both imagine and write from a position of privilege” (9). He indicates that this writing from a position of privilege is a key to a good writer. He notes, good writers must “see themselves with in a privileged discourse,…They must be either equal to or more powerful than those they would address. The writing, then, must somehow transform the political and social relationships between basic writing students and their teachers” (9). The author notes this is key to great writers. I am sure Defoe used these factors of audience awareness when seeking to do this “new form of writing,” or the genre of the novel. It is this same idea of audience awareness that Roxana employs and she uses it to her advantage.

In my opinion to answer the question of audience, Roxana is seeking to appeal to the new emergent middle class, or the common society, who may have some religious background. She does so to gain the approval of her audience, and to justify her actions, one that hides her attempts to “prey upon others.”