The Life of Olaudah Equiano

the life of olaydah equiano

What are some of the emotions experiences when he first aboard the slave ship

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In Chapter Two, the first thing Equiano saw was a slave ship waiting for cargo, which filled him the immense fear that he "had gotten into a world of bad spirits, and that they were going to kill me." When he saw the many black people chained together with expressions of profound sorrow on their faces, he realized what awaited him, and knew that he would never return to his native country. He suddenly wished to return to former slavery than to endure this new punishment.

He describes the sensation of being put under the decks: "I received such a salutation in my nostrils as I had never experienced in my life; so that with the loathsomeness of the stench, and crying together, I became so sick and low that I was not able to eat, nor had I the least desire to taste anything." He felt a little better when he found people of his own nation, but was convinced that the white men were evil spirits. Similarly, he was amazed by the workings of the ship, and thought it moved by magic.

Down in the hold, he was assaulted by hot air unfit to breathe because of its loathsome smells. Many people grew sick and died, "thus falling victims to the improvident avarice, as I may call it, of their purchasers." The screams and cries of anguish and terror made the hold like a scene from Hell. Thankfully, because of Equiano's young age, he was not put into chains and had more freedom to move about.

The white men were strange to him, especially in their wastefulness. One day, they captured a large fish and only took a small part from it, tossing it back into the sea despite the cries of hungry slaves. They were also remarkably cruel. When three slaves tried to jump overboard and end their lives, one of them was recaptured and flogged mercilessly. Likewise, the slaves down below were cruelly denied any fresh air.

The ship finally came in sight of Barbados. All of the slaves were gathered on deck and examined by frightening men; Equiano was convinced that they desired to eat him. After the examination, the slaves were sent to the merchant's yard, where they were crammed together regardless of age or sex. Equiano was in awe of his surroundings, noting that the houses were two stories and made of bricks. He marveled at the men on horseback.

When it came time for the slave auction, Equiano was disturbed by the loudness and frenzy of the buyers, and by the callous way in which friends and relatives were sundered from each other forever.