L. 170: What was Equiano’s attitude regarding his life in the British Navy?

Olaudah Equiano was a writer and abolitionist. He was kidnapped at the age of eleven from his home village Essaka in Africa and sold as a slave along with his sisters. Equiano said that children in Africa were often kidnapped when grownups were gone doing work outside. They were separated and sold to slave traders and after changing ownership several times, Equiano briefly met his sister again before being separated again. He was taken across a river to the coast, where he was held by European slave traders. He and other African slaves sailed to the British colony of Virginia.

Equiano was bought by a man named Michael Pascal, a lieutenant in the Royal Navy. Pascal renamed the Equiano “Gustavus Vassa”, after a noble who had become Gustav I of Sweden, king in the sixteenth century. Equiano refused and asked to be called”Jacob” instead, but eventually he submitted to this new strange name. He used this name for the rest of his life and only used “Equiano” in his autobiography.

Pascal took Equiano with him when he returned to England and had him accompany him during the Seven Years’ War with France. Equiano was trained in seamanship, and he was expected to help the ship’s crew during battle. His job was to bring gunpowder to the gun decks. Pascal favored Equiano and sent him to Great Britain so he could attend school. While Equiano was in Great Britain he converted to Christianity.

I think Equiano had great luck with Michael Pascal and even though he was forced to change his name most of what Pascal had him do was not bad. It gets even better when he is sent to attend school, becoming a Christian in the process.

L.165: What must I do in my note-taking to describe what is going on around me?

An autobiography is a story that records part of your life, usually the bigger events that would give interest to others so when writing an autobiography, it’s better to have as much information as possible. You want the reader to find themself in your shoes, and giving lots of specified information can help achieve that. 

 A big problem people complain about is the fact that we always forget the details. We only remember the event: “This happened”, “That happened”, “We had fun”                                                                          But never the small details like: “The sky was a clear blue”, “The building was tall and had several windows”, “There were many cars in the parking lot”.

One way, to preserve those specific features, is to write on it while the memory is still fresh. Keeping a journal with you is best so you can record the notes you will want to use while you write your autobiography. That way you can look back if you need the info and there you’ll have a more specific paragraph or page of something that may have happened a long time ago! 

L.160: Has any event in your life had the same impact that learning how to read had on Douglass’s life? If not, why not?

Fredrick Douglass was a writer and an abolitionist who escaped slavery in 1838. His father is unknown and was taken from his mother after birth then taken to live with his grandmother until he was six. After that he started going through the process of being passed down by slave owners and new masters. His first owner let his brother, in Baltimore, have him for the time being and while there, the brother’s wife taught Douglass to read. At that time it was highly dangerous to teach a slave to read or for a slave to have the gift of reading but when was new to the slavery system and didn’t know of that it was illegal. After the wife’s husband found this out, he claimed that it was risky and that if slaves knew how to read, there would be a higher chance of their escape which was not what they wanted. This probably stirred Douglass more toward what he should be doing.

He tried to escape many times and after many failed tries, he finally managed to flee into a free state where he married a free black woman and started a woman. In New York with his developing family, he began to attend abolitionist meetings, meeting of people opposing the slavery system. Soon he was a well known leader in the community and in 1845 published his autobiography Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, seven years after he escaped slavery.

Having the ability to read, was a gift for a slave but when Douglass had this precious knowledge stored inside him, with no way to pull it out, he was given harsher treatment from his owners and slave owners. This caused Douglass to have bitter thoughts, that having the ability of reading was not a gift but a curse, a burden, a tormenting yes valuable talent. Despite these thoughts, Douglass’s reading skills proved useful many times. What his first owner’s brother said was very true, having the potential to read made it easier for slaves to escape. Then later, he attended these abolitionist meetings and even published an autobiography.

I don’t think I have an event that shook me the same way, reading shook Douglass. It affected himself and his life in both good and bad ways. I can’t recall a major event or happening that changed my life so much. Not yet.

L. 150: As a writer of an autobiography about life in the woods, would you spend more pages describing an ant war or loons? Why?

I would spend most of the pages of an autobiography describing . . . an ant war. It is more intriguing and several things you could relate to the topic. 

Henry David Thoreau seems to take a huge interest in nature and the writings of it. In Throeau’s autobiography he often strays to describe the scenes that go around him. The scenery, flying birds, and more. I’m pretty sure Thoreau would delight in writing about loons or an ant war but in my own writing, if I were a writer about life in the woods, I would most definitely write about both. As for which topic would take the most words is hard to say. When talking or writing literature on nature there are many ways to write about a single topic. Not only can you describe an animal, you can relate life stories to the animal or what it is doing. Take for instance, the loon in which I will instruct in Thoreau’s sense of writing. Describe the loon specifically (its colors, feathers, eyes, beak, webbed feet…)and what it’s doing specifically (swimming, flying, diving or fishing, ruffling its feathers, eating …). Join it with stories of anything that could relate to the loon or what it’s doing. Swimming, feathers, birds, or any stories you have to share about birds and the best: about loons themselves. Don’t stray off too far or you’ll get off subject, just enough to remind the reader that you are still on the topic of loons and make sure your reader won’t get lost. You can also include stories that you may have heard from other people. While you can write informational, you can also write in the future tense. Describe what you think it will do after it is done with whatever it is doing, what it will do at night, and so forth.

An ant war can be used in similar ways. Describe a lone pair of ants or a colony, the shine of their shell. Describe the intense or ferocity in their fight and what are the odds for one or the other. Again share some stories related to the topic, the ant bite, ant pile, infestation, pincers, or something else but stay on topic. Tell what it will do if one loses or one wins and if you have the details, go for an informational paragraph or two.

Now going back to the question “As a writer of an autobiography about life in the woods, would you spend more pages describing an ant war or loons?Why?”

I would go for an ant war. This can easily connect to other topics that I could share and many encounters that I can tell as well. I will explain everything I know about them and give a future tense of them if I were using Thoreau’s style of writing.

L. 145: How important is it for a person to summarize his philosophy of life in an early chapter of an autobiography?

If you were writing an autobiography, I believe it is important to write about your philosophy of life because everybody views life differently. You want to get an insight on what others believe especially when you are reading about the author’s life. Without knowing their philosophy, there may be a lot of things you will not understand or agree on. I think it is convenient and makes sense if the author puts a paragraph or two at the beginning of the book. You can see what the author’s views are and be prepared for what is to come. A person’s philosophy can also give the reader insight as to why they made some decisions that they did. Going back to not understanding, when you read things that the author did, you might not see the sense in it and form your own criticism on the author or someone else but after reading the author’s beliefs before (or maybe now), you can really start to see how their actions match with their beliefs. 

Reading different ways of thinking can not only help you understand the author but it can also open your mind and that your ways of thinking are not the ways others think. It can help with your life and mind set.

L. 140: Would Walden have been a better book if Thoreau had supplied more background information on his life?

Henry David Thoreau was an American essayist, poet, and philosopher. He had a few siblings who never had children or married including thoreau himself. Perhaps this was what he meant by being independent. He grew to take interest in natural history, botany, articles on traveling, and tons of others and in 1845 he began his famous works on his stay at the Walden Pond, where he lived for two years. In 1854 he published Walden, where everyone could read his experiences at the Walden Pond. 

Experiences? Wait, no, I mean- well, read on and you’ll see what i mean.

 Autobiographies normally recount most of their writer’s life in literature. In Thoreau’s case, he may have put it in literature but he hardly tells about his personal life which, to me, makes the whole of an autobiography. He seems to prefer writing about his philosophies and complaining about the new life and criticizing the difference between “back then” and now. 

Thoreau’s autobiography was very narrative and confusing. He claimed to have lived a hermit’s lifestyle when he relied on several different things, things he hadn’t made, grown, or done himself. He even emphasized how men should be independent and self supporting.

He didn’t have any order in his book, no chronological sequence here. It was hard to tell when and where things are going on so much of it is all about his mind. It was confusing too.

L. 135: Was Thoreau dependent on the division of labor while he was living on Walden Pond?

Thoreau Walden was a man who lived in the woods near his mother’s property. In his autobiography “Life In The Woods,” he goes on and on about how a person should only own one pair of clothes, how they should only work two weeks in a year, that all people should do what their hearts tell them to, and how charity is the wickedness of the Devil. 

Thoreau lived on his mother’s property for many years of his life. He was ignorant to what real life was. He said that he was opposed to the labor force because his life was spent doing nothing. I would say he was pretty dependent on Walden Pond. he also expresses that men should be independent. He had no family but he was still very dependent. He relied on his mother, bought tools from stores, and bought food from stores,which had been made from laborers. He even had his neighbors help him in house raising although he was going to live by the Walden Pond to be self-sufficient. That doesn’t sound independent at all and buying from stores, this is counted on depending on the division of labor. And all at the same time he believes in not working at all! According to him, he was entirely dependent upon himself. He once said, “Men work too hard, plowing themselves into compost.” He has written countless remarks just like this. Then he shows his dislike of factories and luxury but goes back to his mother and works in a pencil factory under the life of luxury from his parents!

Some may say he was introverted but at least twice a week to get supplies and socialize. This is more proof that he did not lead a hermit’s lifestyle. He was sort of a hypocrite here and there which is confusing to a lot people. So here’s the whole of it:

L.130: How could I adopt Northup’s technique of using contrasts?

Solomon Northup did an excellent job in his autobiography. He was born a free man and remained one for nearly thirty years until he was kidnapped and sold into slavery. As a freeman he had the ability to read so as a slave he was a rare person since most slaves were prevented from being able to read or write. This is how he made his story. Northup 

The other main contrast I found in this book was between two of his masters: Ford and Epps. Ford was his first master, and he was very kind, as far as slave masters go. He was a Christian, with strong beliefs. He read the Bible to his slaves constantly, and encouraged Northup to read it as well as the others (though most of the slaves in the South couldn’t read, so it was mainly Northup who he encouraged in this way). He was a just man, who did not like to use violence on his slaves unless they had done something worth a whipping. This said, he was still okay with slavery, the one thing that reminds you that he was still a slave owner, no matter how wonderful he was.

We are then shown Epps, who was Northup’s owner for about ten years. Epps was a cruel man who lived for the discomfort and pain of his slaves. He whipped and beat them constantly, and for no good reason. This was hard to read at times, because Northup was very descriptive of all the unjust flogging, whipping and beatings that Epps inflicted upon his slaves. Epps was not a good man, he had been bred to be this way.

So Northup uses the contrast of something like the difference between positive and negative sanctions, the act of rewarding good motives or punishing bad motives. I liked this contrast given the difference between a good slave owner and a bad one from a slave point of view.

L. 120: Describe the differences between Northup’s response to separation from his children and Eliza’s response to separation from her children.”

Solomon Northup was a free colored man until one day, he was kidnapped and sold into slavery. In this process, he was forced to leave his family behind who had no idea where he was and what he was up to during that time. It must have been a horrible feeling for Solomon knowing his family was worried for him. Fortunately, later on, he was able to send a letter to them, carried by a kind sailor, telling them of his condition. In the end, he escaped in 1853 and went back to his family.
At the beginning of this havoc, he was sold with two other slaves: Harry and Eliza. Eliza, at that time, had a young son, Randall, and a young daughter, Emily, with her in the slave market. Unfortunately for her, her son is sold to someone else, separately from his mother or sister. Eliza is desperate and pleads to have all three of them sold at once however things do not go her way. Another owner comes and agrees to buy Northup, Harry, and Eliza. Again Eliza pleads for her new owner to buy her daughter as well so the two of them could go together and that she was too young to live without her mother. Her owner is sympathetic but the cruel slave trader, refused, claiming that Emily was not for sale. Since the young girl had a fair appearance, he also stated that in a few years, many men would pay high prices for her. So Eliza was dragged from her children, grief-stricken forever, the main cause of her death later on. So Eliza never got to see her children again, believing that they had led unpleasant lives.
So in my opinion, Solomon had it much easier than Eliza. He was able to see his family again and escape slavery. They both probably suffered much grief; however, I think that Eliza had the worst of it, knowing she would never see her beloved children again.

L. 115: How does Thompson provide persuasive evidence that South’s slave system was morally evil?

John Thompson was a slave who made his autobiography, recounting his past events in his slavery. John Thompson, who does not state how he had one of the honors as a slave to knows reading and writing. Although this was a dangerous and illegal gift to have, thanks to this, Thompson provides us with his autobiography. This autobiography among many other marvelous stories gives all his readers an insight on life as a slave and the days of slavery.
Thompson was born in Maryland in 1812. Thompson could see the cruelty in the relation between slaves and their slave owners or overseers. For example, Mr. Wagar. Mr. Wagar was a cruel slave driver. He took pleasure in seeing and inflicting pain on one. He would gather up his slaves and give them whippings just to maintain the submission of his slaves. He found it amusing to force slaves to flog their own family and so did his children, especially his son, John. John would call for the colored children to do chores, sweeping and cleaning the yard of weeds, and at the same time, he would go around, whipping some of them who had thin shirts or bare backs so that blood would run for his own entertainment. Some of the slave owners were so cruel that the slaves found death better than a whipping like Ben who preferred hanging himself over a flogging but as a result, was led to an even worse situation, bring whipped until you could see “his entrails moving about” and left unable to move for nearly five weeks.
So, yes, Thompson composes persuasive writings that the South slave system is morally evil. Considering the interactions between slaves and their masters or slave overseers and the horrifying stories that take place, I am well persuaded that the slaves got the worst of it during this era of slavery.