Every opinion of the first encounter with the new world is different. Olaudah Equiano’s is one of fear, as a boy sold into slavery by his own family. Equiano is confused and mistreated on his American voyage. While Christopher Columbus’ view of the new world is full of excitement and ravenousness. Columbus often sweetens the truth a bit to entice the queen whom he is exploring for. Thomas Harriot is different all together, instead of talking to the queen; he is speaking to the common English folk, in that respect he is like Equiano; both of them are trying to tell their stories without bias. Equiano is being forcibly brought to the new world to work the fields, and provide for his master. Where as Harriot and Columbus travel to the new world on their own free will, to increase their social standing. The accounts are all different in that Columbus glorifies the new world, Equiano despises it, and Harriot looks to bring settlers to it. What a reader can draw from all the accounts is the writers do not comprehend the people they are writing about, which leads them to draw conclusions that are misconceived and often incorrect.
Christopher Columbus believes he has struck gold, and found this short cut to India. Columbus focuses on God and converting the “Indians” to Christianity more than Harriot, or Equiano. Columbus seems like he is trying to impress the queen, he wants to make her to feel like she has made a great investment funding his journey. He is hungry for gold; unlike the others Columbus is there for wealth. His whole reason for traveling to “India” is different from Equiano and Harriot; he is here to stuff his pockets and hopes to gain some kind of nobility. In many ways Columbus is like Thomas Harriot, both seem to be promoting this foreign land and incidentally promoting themselves. Both men go into detail about how easy it would be to settle here and take advantage of the Native Americans. Indirectly Columbus’ writing is alluring to settlers; because he writes for the queen not common folk. Harriot’s writing is directly alluring to Europeans, because he plans to draw people to settle in this new land. Equiano’s writing is the opposite of Harriots’, it is disturbing to Europeans and is probably the most truthful; he is the only one losing anything by writing his account.
All the different accounts reference god or Christianity, which shows how predominant Christianity is in that era’s society. Columbus speaks to how easy it would be to turn them to the European religion; “they have no religion and I think that they would be very quickly Christianized, for they have a very ready understanding” (64). Where as Harriot’s opinion differs, saying they have their own religion- directly countering what Columbus says, “They believe also in the immortality of the soul; that after this life, as soon as the soul is departed from the body… it is either carried to heaven… or else to a great pit…” (87). Which can lead one to think, perhaps Columbus did not know about their religion, or perhaps he just bent the truth a little to entice the queen and gain favor: Columbus is after his own benefit. Equiano’s reference of Christianity is much different from both Columbus and Harriot in that he conflicts with their Christian undertone; “O, ye nominal Christians! Might not an African ask you, learned you this from your god? Who says unto you, do unto all men as you would men should do unto you?” (97). He questions their methods, kind of saying, how could these so called “Christians” be so brutal? In Columbus and Harriot’s writings there is a strong Christian undertone which Equiano bashes. He insults the people he lives next to, “The white people looked and acted… in so savage a manner” (94). Which leads nicely into the largest difference in all the readings; Harriot, and Columbus gain from their writings in stature and wealth, Equiano does not. Equiano if anything, gains disfavor and loses stature, he paints the Europeans as these disgusting brutes.
Equiano’s account does not reflect on the indigenous people, in much of the ways the Europeans talk about the Native Americans Equiano addresses the Europeans. The Europeans are perplexed by this society, they look down on the natives and they do not understand them. Harriot talks about his interactions with the Native Americans; “Many other things we had, were so strange unto them, and so far exceeded their capacities to comprehend the reason and means how they should be made and done, so that they thought they were works of gods than of men” (88). He basically says they are ignorant, and they cannot possibly be of the same stature as a European. He goes into how much better the Europeans are than the natives; “In respect of us, they are a people poor, and for want of skill and judgment in the knowledge and use of our things” (86). Columbus too claims that these men are unorganized, and easy to conquer, “Should your Highnesses command it all the inhabitants could be taken away to Castile or held as slaves on the island, for with fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we wish” (60). This relates to Equiano’s account in the fact that he just simply does not understand the foreigners. Equiano believes they are not even human, “I was exceedingly amazed at this account, and really thought they were spirits. I therefore wished much to be from amongst them” (94). In the respect of ignorance he is a lot like the Europeans to the Native Americans. He too does not understand the people of this new world [the Europeans]; “I thought these people were full of nothing but magical arts” (97).
Harriot, Columbus and Equiano all have differing attitudes toward the inhabitants of the new world. One feels for Equiano, in his writing a reader realizes just how unknowing he is, he knows nothing of this new world and its inhabitants. At one point Equiano admits he looks forward to death. Columbus is much the same in that he does not know about this new world either; he talks about not knowing what kind of fruit there is on the trees. Harriot seems to know, in his writing there are less questions and more facts, in that respect he is different from the other two authors. Harriot hopes to persuade Europeans to come and live in the new world. He claims, like Columbus, that it will be easy to conquer and advance in. All the accounts are wrong in their own way. Equiano is wrong, the white men are no mystic being, Columbus is wrong, they are organized and not easy to take advantage off, and Harriot is also mislead they are not just naked children, the Native Americans are just different and should be respected just like any other man. All the accounts of the new world are not informed enough, thus drawing incorrect conclusions.
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