Equiano alludes to John Milton's Paradise Lost several times. In Chapter 5, he paraphrases a passage from it in a way that suggests an allegorical relationship between slavery and the divine war depicted in the epic poem:
Are you not hourly in dread of an insurrection? Nor would it be surprising: for when
No peace is given
To us enslav’d, but custody severe;
And stripes and arbitrary punishment
Inflicted—What peace can we return?
But to our power, hostility and hate,
Untam’d reluctance, and revenge, tho’ slow,
Yet ever plotting how the conqueror least
May reap his conquest, and may least rejoice
In doing what we most in suffring feel? MILTON.
Paradise Lost is famous in part for its sympathetic portrayal of Satan and his fellow demons in Hell. This passage comes from Book 2 of Paradise Lost, and it concerns the demons' motives for corrupting Adam and Eve, the human darlings of Heaven. The speaker of the passage is Beelzebub, one of the more important demons. Beelzebub characterizes himself and the other demons (who used to be angels) as God's "enslav'd" because God has so severely punished them for questioning his authority. Banished to Hell, the demons now live in perpetual suffering. When they are treated so cruelly, he wonders, how does God expect them to respond? The only response available to them is "hostility and hate, Untam'd reluctance, and revenge."
In this chapter, Equiano has cited myriad examples of the cruelties enslaved Black people are forced to endure. He uses the paraphrased Milton passage to draw parallels between their situation and that of Milton's demons. Essentially, enslaved people live in a Hell on Earth. Equiano, like Beelzebub, demands to know how enslavers in the human world expect enslaved people to respond to their cruelty. "Are you not in hourly dread of an insurrection?" he asks. He means that cruel authoritarianism eventually must lead to revolution (like it does in Paradise Lost).