Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Olaudah Equiano's The Life of Olaudah Equiano. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.
The Life of Olaudah Equiano: Introduction
The Life of Olaudah Equiano: Plot Summary
The Life of Olaudah Equiano: Detailed Summary & Analysis
The Life of Olaudah Equiano: Themes
The Life of Olaudah Equiano: Quotes
The Life of Olaudah Equiano: Characters
The Life of Olaudah Equiano: Symbols
The Life of Olaudah Equiano: Theme Wheel
Brief Biography of Olaudah Equiano
Historical Context of The Life of Olaudah Equiano
Other Books Related to The Life of Olaudah Equiano
- Full Title: The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African
- When Written: ?-1789
- Where Written: London, England
- When Published: 1789
- Literary Period: Enlightenment/18th-century
- Genre: Autobiography
- Antagonist: The slave trade in general is the vast, inhuman antagonist against which Equiano struggles throughout the book—indeed, it is the slave trade against which Equiano writes the narrative itself. The slave trade’s evils and barbarities give it a kind of human agency, especially since Equiano argues that it is slavery itself that corrupts slave traders, not any inherent evilness in them. But this cruelty is encapsulated to different extents in various white people whom Equiano encounters, from his apparently kindly master Pascal (who ultimately betrays him) to the various captains in Jamaica who threaten to return him to servitude.
- Point of View: As an autobiography, the book is written in the first person by a narrator who is looking back over his life and recounting its events chronologically. At times, Equiano’s narrative voice intrudes from the present, as he makes comments and judgments on his past behavior.
Extra Credit for The Life of Olaudah Equiano
Origin stories. While almost all of Equiano’s narrative has been independently corroborated, scholars have, for several decades, debated whether or not he was actually born in Africa. One historian has argued that he was actually from South Carolina originally, though others have countered that his detailed account of the trade from Africa to the U.S. makes those origins unlikely.
Just for kids? Equiano’s narrative has also been adapted into a book for children, published in the United States with the title The Kidnapped Prince: The Life of Olaudah Equiano.