Analysis of passage

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Among the first realistic novels in history is Oroonoko which was written by Aphra Behn in 1688. Surinam is a British colony, in the new world, that the story focuses on in its plot. In depth, the story reflects on the social transformation issues that ensued in the seventeenth century and how various parties were engaged in propagating slavery. Furthermore, it integrates love with the social injustice that happens to Oroonoko. This paper focuses on the novel’s engagement of slavery and the new ways in which it is handled with regards to the context of the historical time in which it was written.

Although it’s hard to pinpoint the aspect of slavery in the novel, it is depicted in great depths. The author does not directly criticize slavery but only through the facet of the hero who is oppressed that we realise the critique. The narrator presents a picture of having some level of authority in the colony, an aspect that shows her support of the colonial, slavery and oppressive ideologies. On the flipside, the portrayal of Oroonoko is more positive and appealing than the rulers. Again, she makes it clear that authority of helping Oroonoko lies with her but she does not rescue him (None., 2016).

Slavery acts are highly spread in the novel. The whites overtly express the cruelty against Oroonoko. They brutally tear flesh from his bones. He almost faints due to the massive loss of blood and he is dragged naked, loading him with irons all over. Such descriptions show the gravity of Oroonoko’s situation and the depth of slave

treatment in the 1600s. Nonetheless, Behn does not condemn the utilisation of slaves by the colonialists. To her, it was okay to treat them as Trefry did, not being cruel but gentle. Again, she does not raise an alarm on the fact that the slaves have to change their names and also leave their friends and families in Africa. Additionally, there is no account of her suggesting the abolishment of slavery despite writing about its horrors and tribulations (Oroonoko: A “Royal Slave” and/or a Master of Dignity, 2015).

Oroonoko does not show remorse as he takes slaves, despite his suffering as one. Through his submissions, he approves it as the only fate of Africans who are taken in a war with respect. Also, he does not regret the fact that the slaves he took from war were sold to the British for personal profits. Even as he suffers the agonising fate, he does not, at any point, lament about selling fellow Africans and countrymen to the colonialists.

In the novel, sympathy characterises the links between the brutalised groups and complications come from the levels of governance. When issues arise, the narrator sides with the oppressors because she belongs there. Oroonoko’s inclination is towards the soldiers, a social group that regards women as nothing other than property. This position renders an explanation on the discrimination of women in the society. Even in the face of slavery, women were still considered weak and unimportant. They were used as tools of entertainment by most of the men, especially the oppressors. Therefore, the narrator engages the two

opposing points of view but does not recognise the position of Oroonoko in the system of capitalism (Zehra, 2016).

With regards to the context of the novel, there were various happenings from both the sides of the oppressors and the oppressed that are considered new. First off, in the 1600s, slaves were not allowed to marry among themselves. The situation with Oroonoko is different as he marries Immoinda under the new names of Clemene and Caesar. Furthermore, he impregnates her and petitions for a return to Africa. The kind of soft consideration was disallowed then. Anti-slavery revolutions began in the early 1700s and could not be overt during the time that Behn wrote the novel. Furthermore, the negotiations carried out by the deputy governor, Byam, promising amnesty to the slaves if they surrendered were out of context. In real situations of that time, slaves had no room for any form of argument or revolt. The 1600s was the peak of slave trade in most parts of the world and the rules established were stringent around slaves and the traders.

The guts that Oroonoko gathers during his sunset days were enormous and could not characterise an ordinary slave of the time. He cuts off his throat and stabs the first person who comes in his way. Also, he is forced to kill the love of his life by the oppressors, an act that can positively reflect that period. Making demands in the face of a deputy governor with promises of availing a talk with the governor could not be possible, it is an act that can only be associated with modern day abolitionist movements.

The British Empire was a dominant European group that had no room for talks with groups that they considered weak (Oroonoko: A “Royal Slave” and/or a Master of Dignity, 2015).

Oroonoko was an African prince. With regards to African values, there could not exist a situation where the king and his son fight for one woman. The African king was paramount and could not engage in hideous acts to woo a lover like Oroonoko’s father did. It is a new situation that does happen in the current days only. Furthermore, an African royal family member could not be taken as a slave directly. The family could either collaborate or resist and fight to the death.

In conclusion, it has consistently been established that the novel creates a realistic consequence than others in the early times. The effect is realised not only through its convincing nature but also through the contradictory positions that the narrator takes throughout the plot. Overly, Oroonoko is the tragedy and romance hero. Nevertheless, the narrator fails to save him from all the tribulations and even his death. Therefore, it is a novelistic device that Behn employs. Some of the aspects that are considered new regarding slavery and the period of writing the novel include slave revolutions, negotiations with the oppressors, allowing rights such as marriage, enslaving an African prince, demands from slaves among others.


None., (2016). Oroonoko. [Place of publication not identified]: Penguin Books.

Oroonoko: A “Royal Slave” and/or a Master of Dignity. (2015). Advances in Language and Literary Studies, 6(4).

Zehra, T. (2016). Oroonoko: An Analysis of Treason in Behn’s Anglo-African Sojourn. IRA International Journal of Education and Multidisciplinary Studies (ISSN 2455–2526), 3(1).