The Life of Olaudah Equiano

Comparison of Conversion Narratives: Olaudah Equiano and John Marrant College

Spiritual autobiographies, or conversion narratives, were popular forms of literature in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries with Americans and Europeans alike. Daniel Shea explains a spiritual autobiography is “primarily concerned with the question of grace: whether or not the individual has been accepted into divine life, an acceptance signified by psychological and moral changes which the autobiographer comes to discern in his past experience” (XI). Accordingly, these type of texts were often used as religious, political, or cultural propaganda. With this in mind, Olaudah Equiano’s The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, Or Gustavus Vassa, The African by Himself (1789) and John Marrant’s Narrative of the Lord’s Wonderful Dealings with John Marrant, a Black (1785) do not ostensibly seem interconnected. Equiano’s narrative tells the story of an eleven year old Black boy who is captured and must endure the trials and tribulations of the slave trade and its related injustices. On the contrary, John Marrant is a free, educated black male who accepts Christianity, willingly abandons his family, and assimilates into Native American culture. While at first these texts seem completely unrelated, a closer look...

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