Oroonoko is an arousing and compelling protagonist, and his story evokes themes of race, class, gender, and power. The continually shifting social status of the titular character is also a primary motif in Aphra Behn's novella. Oroonoko seems to shift between worlds: the worlds of power and subjugation; master and slave; white and black. The relationship between the narrator and Oroonoko likewise shifts, which is why the point-of-view of the story from a literary perspective is sometimes confusing. Behn is building up ultimately to a portrayal of the protagonist as a Christ figure, albeit an unlikely one. Oroonoko is not a pure Christ, but a very human one who martyrs not only himself but the love of his life. Oroonoko combines elements of classical Greek heroes and their hubris, with the selflessness of the Christ motif.
The narrator idealizes Oroonoko, focusing on his physical, intellectual, and social features. She is…… [Read More]
Oroonoko: Or the oyal Slave
The first two paragraphs serve as an introduction to the novella, and try to show the reader this is supposed to be a true story. Just reading these first two paragraphs, it sounds as if this could be a romance or a tragic romance. elations between the natives and the English seem to be good; at least this author seems to respect them. The natives are important to the whites because they trade with them and the natives show them how to survive. The English don't enslave them because they are "useful" to them. The blacks do the work in Surinam. The people who want slaves contract with a slave ship, and when the ship comes back, they get the slaves they paid for. Behn's description shows these people have a distinct culture, enjoy ornaments and colorful clothing, and he makes them sound dashing and…… [Read More]
Aphra Behn's novel Oroonoko is about a young man who was born a prince and dies a slave. As an African male, Oroonoko is subjected to the racism of the white males who have all the power in his society. In the time period that Aphra Behn was writing, Africans were being captured and enslaved no matter what their birth status. Even a prince could find himself enslaved and forced to work for white oppressors. The institution of slavery was already heavily practiced by the time that Behn wrote this book and her depictions of slavery and the enslaved are apt. The harsh portrayal of the peculiar institution is accurate in terms of the history of slavery.
Oroonoko was one of the first texts to take a negative stance against the institution of slavery. There are critics however who try to cast Behn in the role of racist for…… [Read More]
Island's Mine!" (Caliban, in Shakespeare's "The Tempest," 1.2)
Comparison between the slave rebellions of Shakespeare's "The Tempest" and Aphra Behn's "Oroonoko"
One of the most poignant statements in all of Shakespeare's "Tempest" is the assertion by the work's 'villain,' Caliban, that the island of the play's setting really and rightfully belongs in his ownership, not Prospero's. "This island's mine, by Sycorax my mother, / hich thou takest from me." (1.2) It is Prospero, Caliban alleges, who is the interloper, who took the island away from the control conferred to him by the witch who gave birth to him. Caliban, of course is right in the sense that other than possessing a greater power of sorcery, and by virtue of landing upon the island, Prospero as a human man has no right to control and dominate the island, any more than the protagonists of Aphra Behn's later work "Oroonoko" have to…… [Read More]
Aphra Behn's Oroonoko is a tale of Coramantien prince and victorious general, Oroonoko, who loses his heart to the lovely Imoinda. First published in the year 1688 when African slavery through the barbaric trans-Atlantic slave business became established as an economic, transcontinental system, this tale draws on the popular literary themes of aristocratic romance, social censure and travel narrative. It indicates a few ways in which the British were starting to view cultural and racial disparities and their personal contribution to the slave business and colonialism. Behn's tale, somewhat broadly, is one text that demonstrates the way European literature on the subjects of slavery, colonization and race evolved in the course of the 17th and 18th centuries.
Oroonoko's inspirational speech to fellow slaves clearly makes Behn's work the very first English-language fictional work speaking against slavery. The lead character of the tale addresses his fellow slaves thus:
"And…… [Read More]