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Oroonoko-The Royal Slave
Transcript of Oroonoko-The Royal Slave
Themes within the novel:
European or native superiority: Behn's presentation of the natives and colonists is mixed, and despite the model of the noble savage, she fully embraces the innate superiority of European people and European culture. The natives praise the white men and women, whereas prince Oroonoko is described as beautiful in terms of European physiognomy
Anti-colonialism: Oroonoko is highly regarded as an anti-colonial text. It sheds light on the horrors of slavery and paints many of the white colonists as brutal, greedy, and dishonest.
Oroonoko chronicles the story of the African prince Oroonoko and his beloved wife Imoinda, who are captured by the British and brought to Surinam as slaves. The tale is set primarily in this locale on the northern coast of South America during the 1640s, just before the English surrendered the colony to the Dutch.
The author: Aphra Behn (1640-1689)
Aphra Bhen was the first English professional female literary writer. Information regarding her life is disarrayed, her origins are little verifiable and it is believed that she misconstrued information regarding her life purposely by her. Her prose work, is regarded as an important contribution to the development of the English novel.
It is a possibility that Aphra Bhen did travel to Surinam in 1663, and it is believed that during this trip she may have met an African slave leader, whose story formed the basis of her famous novel Oroonoko.
Oroonoko: Back story on the novel.
Written by Aphra Bhen and published in 1688, just a year before the authors death, Oroonoko is now the most studied of Behn's novels. The factual back story of the plot within this fiction- novel is questioned to this day for some characters are real whereas others aren't.
Female Narrative Voice
In addition, the narrator's active and knowing involvement in the plot, and her follow-up conversations with those who were present when important events took place, provide a great sense of authority that makes the story believable and approachable.
Oroonoko is a tragic tale of resilience against adversity, honor and a reflective lense upon the dichotomy of the conquered and the conquerors. All through the eyes of an enigmatic narrator that has been interpreted as the author herself. A truly captivating piece.
Themes part Deux:
Slavery: Behn does not signal discomfort that slaves cannot retain their own names and are forced to leave their families, she presents a mirror of the reality at the time and narrates slavery without a romanticized viewpoint.
Christianity: It is possible that Oroonoko’s murder represented the death of purity of man. He was described almost as the perfect human, and can be thought of as an Adam-like figure. He was from the race of slaves but elevated above them and untouched by corruption.
How does Aphra Behn, through fiction, help us to understand the lives of actual slaves?
Was Imoinda ever free?
Was Oroonoko's description factual?
What if Aphra Behn had been pro-slavery? List at one instance where the story line supports the antislavery movement.