The Romantic era of literature took place in Europe from approximately 1800 through 1850, with some obvious variation across the continent and as early innovators and as people clung to their favorite ways in the face of the new. …
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Through his ability to quote John Milton and the Bible, important secular and religious books, he surprised the public with its high literary quality and caused many to seriously question what they'd been told. Approximately ten years after Equiano's work was published, Robert Southeby wrote his poem "The Sailor Who Had Served in the Slave Trade." The poem captures the essence of a lost soul dealing with the guilt of his past treatment of slaves, for his failure to recognize them as humans and also God's chosen creatures. By exposing the progression of the lost sailor's great sin, Southeby provides a glimpse into the general attitudes of the British people, showing a strong shift in understanding from the past to Southeby's present. Both works make use of contrasts to combat common beliefs that Africans were a separate species more like animals by showing them instead to have equal or greater intellectual capacity, to have a civilized frame of mind, and to be included within the Christian framework of existence. Evidence of Intellectual Capacity Just the idea that he was able to write his own story, without requiring someone else to transcribe what he said, made Equaino different from many other former slaves whose stories have been immortalized. While all surviving stories of slave experiences are considered valuable: "Their literacy, accompanied with their position as former slaves, provides their narratives with an added sense of authenticity and authority on the subject of the slave trade" (Gunn, 2007: 6), Equiano's was different. He did it with such a high degree of skill that the British, expecting to find a relatively amateur accounting, instead found themselves fully engaged in a thrilling story of adventure...
Taken together, Equiano and Southeby provide a clear way to look at the prevailing attitudes and beliefs about slaves at that time. They do this by exploring concepts of individual intellectual pursuit, culture and society, and their characters' position within the framework of the Christian church. Equiano proved he was an intelligent individual, capable of expressing himself to the most educated of English society with skill and persuasively, when he wrote his book. He brought into question whether Africans could be trained to be on a par with white people intellectually speaking, which further questioned whether Africans were truly an inferior, more animal species. Although Southeby's sailor hadn't thought it strange that slaves were flogged to death on a regular basis on the slave ships and had to be forced to touch the slaves in order to make them eat before, he changes his mind after the murder. He is a creature of feelings and emotions, acting on base elements of dominance as he follows through on his captain's orders. Similarly, Equiano shows his society back in Africa to be highly organized and quite civilized, including a rich strand of the arts interwoven into daily life, as compared to the brutality and force depicted in Southeby's world.
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