The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano gives a first-hand account of Equiano's capture, life as a slave, and eventual freedom and liberation. While there are several important themes and overarching ideas seen throughout the text, a strong grasp of the force and significance of this text can be understood from an intensive analysis of a seemingly insignificant description from a sighting during an account of his passage on a slave ship: "During our passage, I first saw flying fishes, which surprised me very much" (698). In this one sentence Equiano's perception of wonders and horrors, his struggle to find his identity, and his hope for freedom and eventual liberation, can all be seen and understood.
In this narrative, Equiano is constantly contrasting his perceptions of wonders and horrors as a slave. Just before he mentions of the flying fishes, Equiano describes how several of the slaves on the ship jumped overboard in an attempt to commit suicide- a fate they deemed better than being a slave. .
This horrible scene is immediately contrasted with a casual mention of seeing flying fish and of learning how to use a quadrant. The idea of flying fish is starkly significant in this context- they are inconceivable creatures that are not meant to be. They are an abnormal, impossible, magical thing that doesn't make any sense. Equiano also deems the white men to be full of "wonder" and often says that they must be "magical." These white men with their curious technologies and strange ships that are abusing Equiano and taking him and his fellow countrymen away from home are abnormal, impossible, magical beings. His entire situation as a recently captured slave and the life that is ahead of him is just as inconceivable to him as the fish that have mastered the element of air. .
Further, Equiano's narrative is that of a man struggling to find his identity.