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Rhetorical Strategies Used by Olaudah Equiano in His Autobiographical Article

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The non-fiction piece “The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano” was written by Olaudah Equiano. The memoir is about Olaudah Equiano who got kidnaped by a slave trader when he was 11 years old. When he was on the way to another country, he met a different slave trader and got terrible treatment. In this journal, it shows slavery’s horrible experience and feelings. The author’s purpose is to inform the abolition of the slave to their society by informing the slavery of inhumanity treatment. The author was using rhetorical strategies such as pathos, ethos, logos, word choice, and direct address to convey the idea of the text.

At first, the author used pathos to appeal to readers’ emotions. For example, the author stated, “And I even wished for my former slavery in preference to my present situation, which was filled with horrors of every kind, still heightened by my ignorance of what I was to undergo”. The text showed Equainp’s point of view when he got kidnapped by a slave trader. Also, he didn’t know anything about his situation and he feared everything. His feelings make readers feel pity for his experience and it appeals to audiences’ compassion. Also, the author stated, “I naturally feared that element the first time I saw it, yet nevertheless, could I have got over the netting, I would have jumped over the side”. The text can appeal to emotion. It is because he only can overcome and not fear that in that situation. It also shows how helpless of him when he was only 11 years old and comforted that by himself. After the description of how the slaves were sold, Equiano asked some emotional questions. “Why are parents to lose their children, brother their sister or husbands their wives?”. These questions make the reader understand the author’s situation. Other slaves left their parents, brother, and sister. They supposed to be together with their family so it showed the tragedy of slaves’ life to appeal the emotion. By using pathos, the author can make readers feel bad and pity to their life so that the author can persuade the reader to oppose slavery.

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Moreover, the author used ethos to appeal the ethics. For instance, the author depicted his feeling “I was now persuaded that I had gotten into a world of bad spirits and that they were going to kill me”.The text described Equiano’s feeling about got kidnapped. It shows how terrified he was and shows his spirit. That gives the readers a sense of the author to make them understand the author’s situation. Furthermore, when Equiano was on the ship, he kept asking questions “How comes it in all our country we never heard of them?”, “Where were their women?” and some questions about the place that he was going. Equiano was 11 years old and it was the time to explore or learn things. However, he got kidnapped and he didn’t have any choice to be a slave. The text shows Equiano’s humanity. It appeals to shared beliefs, children curious – stated what the reader is supposed to feel about. In addition, Equiano asked, “why are parents to lose their children, brothers their sister, or husbands their wives”. The text appeals to share beliefs as well. It is because it shows family should stay together. But they became a slave, they can’t live with their sibling and parents. Being a slave, they didn’t have any choice to go to any country or be with their family. Overall, the author used ethos to show the beliefs and Equiano’s situation to convey the sense of the salve.

Besides, the author used word choice and direct address to show the author’s purpose. When Equiano got kidnapped, he described the image of what he being and he used the word “cargo”. The word is used to describe an inanimate or livestock. His description makes readers know about their treatment as animals. Then, they don’t have the choice to choose where will they go. It shows they don’t have a human right. When they got to the place, “we were conducted immediately to the merchant’s yard, where we were all pent up together like so many sheep in a fold, without to sex or age”. The text showed the inhumanity belief. The slaves just like sheep and everyone in a room. Their treatment was terrible and cruel and the slave traders treat them like animals. At the end of the text, Equiano speaks to the audience and take about how unfair and tragedy of slaves’ life. That appeals to emotion and makes the reader have deep thinking. The text expressed Equiano’s feelings and how he feel unfair about the treatment. His description of separating family and friends to appeal the audience compassion. Also, the description can call action which was opposed to slave and have a deep thinking.

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Rhetorical Strategies Used by Olaudah Equiano in His Autobiographical Article. (2022, September 01). Edubirdie. Retrieved January 30, 2023, from
“Rhetorical Strategies Used by Olaudah Equiano in His Autobiographical Article.” Edubirdie, 01 Sept. 2022,
Rhetorical Strategies Used by Olaudah Equiano in His Autobiographical Article. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 30 Jan. 2023].
Rhetorical Strategies Used by Olaudah Equiano in His Autobiographical Article [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Sept 01 [cited 2023 Jan 30]. Available from:
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