A Self-Made Man
Olaudah Equiano was born in Eboe, what is now Nigeria, in 1745. At the short age of eleven, he was kidnapped by two men and a woman, and sold to slave traders, which were headed to the West Indies. Equiano’s journey to freedom makes him probably the most important black man in the 18th century. He was also probably the luckiest slave there was, since his masters were not terrible to him and actually taught him many things. This is the reason why Equiano embraced the British culture and customs. Otherwise, his story might have been different. Equiano’s African heritage and his ionization of British society led him to create a double identity for himself, to increase his desire to become a gentlemen, and to recuperate what he considered his appropriate social status.
Equiano begins his journey as an African slave, which is where he discovered his admiration for the English society. He observed quite closely and took in all the details. To him, being exposed to the British culture and customs felt like “magic.” This realization created a desire to become a gentlemen like them. Therefore, creating his dual identity, Equiano as the African and Gustavus Vassa as the Englishman. After two or three years of being a slave, Equiano notes "I now not only felt myself quite easy with these new countrymen, but relished their society and manners. I no longer looked upon [Englishmen] as spirits, but as men superior to us; and therefore I had the stronger desire to resemble them, to imbibe their spirit, and imitate their manners" (Edwards 38). Equiano mentions repeatedly his desire for a male English identity and to acquire their superiority. In Equiano’s mind he does not see Englishness as a nationality, which is rationally exclusive. Instead he sees it as an ethnic identity that stands for civilization, Christianity, manliness and bravery. During Equiano’s journey he begins to see himself as an African who should be living an Englishman life.