The Discovery of True Identity in The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, Homemade Education, Just Walk on By

Category: Olaudah Equiano
Last Updated: 03 May 2023
Essay type: Narrative
Pages: 4 Views: 168

There are many ways a person can discover their true identity, however, it is very common through personal hardship, cultural expectations, or even stereotypes. One example of this is how in The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa the African, Equiano Discovers himself as an increasingly religious person while going through many hardships in his life. Also, Malcolm X in Homemade Education also shows this in how he used the time he had in prison to improve his own identity by learning to read and write. Additionally in Just Walk on By: A Black Man Ponders His Power to Alter Public Space Brent Staples discovers that he can make people feel uncomfortable just because of how he looks and the stereotypes which go along with it. Sometimes going through hardships can be the best way to learn something new about yourself, and however hard it is they can sometimes be for the better.

Equiano has many breakthroughs in his life but none of them seem to rival his increasing belief in religion. Equiano was simply like any other kid just trying to get by in the world however when he was put through all the hardships of slavery, followed by eventually gaining his freedom he became a very religious individual. In the opening of the story Equiano is looking back on his life and says something that to many might seem like he was not as phased by his whole ordeal of slavery as he should have been. "I might say my sufferings were great: but when I compare my lot with that of most of my countryman, I regard myself as a particular favorite of heaven, and acknowledge the mercies of providence in every occurrence of my life" (Equiano 474). This shows that while he acknowledges he had hardships, they weren't as bad as they could have been and he believes this was a cause of divine intervention. He never makes any reference to religion while he is a child or a young man in the story which shows that he found himself as a religious person during his captivity as a slave. At the end of the story there is also very prevalent mentions of religion and god. "I early accustomed myself to look at the hand of god in the minutest occurrence, and to learn from it a lesson of morality and religion; [.] what makes any event important, unless by its observation we become better and wiser, and learn to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly before God?"(Equiano 489). This shows he is an extremely dedicated individual when it comes to religious faith and that he is not going to ever be deterred off the path, he never seemed this dedicated through his childhood or even during his time as a slave. This all came to be after he had gained his freedom and became more educated. His rebirth into religion is the greatest discovery of himself that he goes through during the story.

Malcolm X's discovery of his own identity was a little bit different, while in prison for a robbery he taught himself how to read and write more proficiently simply be copying pages out of the dictionary then rereading them. When He first arrived in prison he truly realized how little he actually knew when it came to writing or even speaking saying, "Trying to write simple English, I not only wasn't articulate I wasn't even functional. How would I sound writing in slang" (Malcolm X 41). This shows that he realized that he needed to do something to improve his knowledge of the English language. Malcolm X was extremely motivated, he managed to do something few people could do and became literate without any help from people on the outside. "I saw that the best thing I could do was get hold of a dictionary-to study, to learn some words. [...] I spent two days just riffling uncertainly through the dictionary's pages"(Malcolm X 41). He spent unprecedented amounts of time simply reading the dictionary. Doing this allowed him to become much more successful in his future of trying to change the world.

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Brent Staples learned that people would make immediate judgments about him based solely on the way he looked. He found that his identity could be completely different depending on how he acted. If he did certain things people would be completely fine around him however if he acted more hostile people would do everything in their power to keep their distance from him. One of the ways he has found to make people feel less uncomfortable around him is by whistling common tunes. "I employ what has proved to be an excellent tension-reducing measure: I whistle melodies from beethoven and Vivaldi and the more popular classical composers. Even steely New Yorkers [...] seem to relax, and occasionally they even join in" (Brent Staples 257). He does things which while subtle enough for people not to think he is acting suspicious it also relaxes them. In contrast to this he also learns he can scare people without having to do much at all. "This time I veered toward them and aimed myself so that they'd have to part to avoid walking into me. The man stiffened, threw back his head and assumed the stare: eyes dead ahead, mouth open [...] I glided between them, my shoulder nearly brushing his. A few steps beyond them I stopped and howled with laughter. I called this game Scatter the Pigeons" (Brent Staples 259). This shows that just small changes in the way he presents himself can drastically change the way people think of him. This is all due to the stereotypes at the time and people thinking his intent was to hurt them.

The events which go on in peoples lives, specifically hardships, can completely change their personalities. It can make a previously average person become extremely religious as in the case of Equiano. It can cause someone to want to better themselves in the case of Malcolm X. However They can also be changed for the worse as we saw with Brent Staples. Things such as these can drastically change people, but how it changes them is up to how they react.

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The Discovery of True Identity in The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, Homemade Education, Just Walk on By. (2023, May 01). Retrieved from

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