Oroonoko Questions and Answers
Essay Type Questions with Answers
Q.1. Write an essay on Aphra Behn’s representation of slavery in Oroonoko.
Ans. The institution commercial of slavery comes into organized form when Columbus discovered America in 1492. Consequently, Spain and Portugal ecame the founders of slavery. Since the Red Indians could not bear the hard labor of mining they were exposed to, they died out fast. In these circumstances, the Spanish colonists were facing the problem of workforce. Bartolome de La Casas, the Roman Catholic Spanish Bishop, requested the king to grant permission to the Spanish colonists to transport Negro slaves from Africa. In 1517, the King gave the consent for importing Negro slaves to the rich plantation owners in America. From here emerges one of the most oppressed labour forces: “the Negro plantation slavery.” The slaves for Portuguese were brought from West African coast to West Indies. Afterwards, the Dutch, the French and the British were issued “assientos” (in essence a special right to buy slaves from Africa and sell them in Americas), to import slaves from Africa to the Spanish America.
According to Joanna Lipking, during Aphara Behn’s stay in Surinam and the publication of Oroonoko in 1688-England’s slave trade was in full swung because they were in need of slaves for their planters in Barbados, Jamaica and Surinam. In 1660, Charles II established a company to handle and manage the matters of slave trade with the help of his brother who was duke of York; who was also known as James II, as governor and chief shareholder in the company. In this regard, the first two English ships sent out for slave-trade to the Gold Coast, what was then called Guinea, were named as the Charles and the James. Therefore, in Lipking’s view, Aphra Behn’s Oroonoko in itself is a part of dark history of slavery.
The masters not only have control over their slaves but also have the right to enslave the unhappy offspring born out of forced marriages among the slave community. It was mainly because of this reason that Oroonoko murdered his wife, Imoinda, alonwith the conceived child in order to protect her lineage from the stains of eternal slavery. In order to create a new independent colony, he urges his fellow-slaves to firmly stand up against the colonial atrocities. His undying passion for liberty is clearly reflected in the following lines: “At least, they shou’d be made Free in his Kingdom, and be Esteemed as his Fellow-sufferers, and Men that has the Courage, and the Bravery to attempt, at least, for Liberty; and if they Dy’d in the attempt it wou’d be more brave, than to live in perpetual Slavery.”
This shows hero’s strong indignation to the institution of commercial slavery and at the same time the slaves’ commitment to get freedom from their cruel masters. Resultantly, the violence is an inevitable part of Behn’s Oroonoko. The colonists were always in the dire need of workforce to keep their plantations operational. In this perspective, the African men and a women were brought to the Caribbean islands.
The violence that commenced in the beginning scene of the novel gradually gets rhythm and in the ending part of the novel it is in its full swing. The white who whipped Oroonoko acts very brutally in rendering the flesh from his body: “When they thought they were sufficiently Reveng on him, they unty’d him, almost Fainting, with loss of Blood, from thousand Wounds all over his Body; from which they had rent his Cloths, and led him Bleeding and Naked as he was; and loaded him all over with Irons; and then rubbed his Wounds.
In the beginning of the novella, we see the narrator trying to establish a sympathetic bond with her hero, but gradually Oroonoko came to discover that the inner self of the European masters is badly corrupted, so being fed up with day to day promises by the plantation-owners regarding his freedom; he finally resolved to stand firmly against his oppressors and urged his fellow-slaves to fight for freedom and emancipation. Moreover Oroonoko’s wife Imoinda conceived a child, and this new happening accelerated the urge for liberty in the heart of Oroonoko and resultantly he was ‘impatient for liberty’; for he wanted to protect his race from the eternal stains of slavery.
He planned to teach an unforgettable lesson to the “tyrants” who imposed slavery on him and dehumanized his “self”. In this regard, he successfully directed his fellows to stage a decisive revolt against these usurpers; otherwise they have to suffer at the hands of their masters not for months or years ‘but for eternity’. He began to convince his fellows that slavery was not a matter of months or years “but for eternity”. He told them that the conditions in which they are; “were fitter for beast than men” and at the same time there does not seem any end to this on-going misery. He delivered a memorable and remarkable speech on the importance of liberty and every word of it is borne with emancipationist crave: “My dear Friends and Fellow sufferers, shou’d we be Slaves to an unknown People? Have they Vanquished us Nobly in Fight? Have they Won us in Honourable Battle? And are we by the chance of War, became their Slave? This wou’d not anger a Noble Heart, this would not animate a Soldiers Soul; no, but we are Bought and Sold like Apes or Monkeys, to be the sport of Woman, Fools and Coward.”
Oroonoko’s violent struggle is a perfect embodiment of what Fanon has referred to in the above-quoted lines. Oroonoko extends the scope of his emancipationist designs to his wife, Imoinda by murdering her, for he did not want to perpetuate the enslavement to his next offspring, and “a prey to his enemies”. Therefore it is a unique form of resistance in the recorded history of the institution of commercial slavery. As it is through a wellsettled genealogical descent that any child can gain his/her cultural inheritance; so Charlotte Sussman is of the view that by murdering Imoinda, Oroonoko in fact resisted the possibility of his child’s being born in an alienated or foreign setting.
The last few moments of Oroonoko’s life on the face of that alien world colonists to their slaves in general and to Oroonoko in particular. The are very much crucial in highlighting the intense brutal treatment by the colonial authority decided to make Oroonoko an exemplary figure for all other slaves so that they may be intimidated for forever by his punishment. The scene of his being lashed or slaughtered and Oroonoko’s indifference to the corporal punishment does demonstrate his ethnic difference that the narrator could not minimize: “And the Executioner came, and first cut off his Member, and threw them into the Fire, after that, with an ill-favored Knife,the cut his Ears,and his Nose ,and burn’d them ;he still Smocked on, if nothing had touched him; then they hack’d off one of his Arms and still he bore up and held his Pipe; but at the cutting off the other Arm his Head and his Pipe dropped.”
Q.2. Aphra Behn explores the theme of colonialism in Oroonoko. Discuss.
Ans. As a young woman, Aphra Behn was a spy for Charles II’s government in Antwerp and probably in South America. Two decades later, she used these experiences to write Oroonoko, the story of a prince kidnapped from West Africa, enslaved and taken to a British colony in South America. Janet Todd explains how this extraordinary novella was shaped by the historical and political contexts and beliefs of Behn’s time.
When the delicate social balance in the colony breaks down, Oroonoko tries to lead a slave rebellion against the European masters. He is disgusted by his lack of support and concludes that some people are simply servile and too ignoble for freedom. His only way out is heroic suicide, taking with him Imoinda, pregnant with his child, who would, if born, be a slave. All goes awry. He kills his beloved, and her body becomes a stinking corpse; he himself is captured and subjected to mutilation and torture. His death is described in gruesome physical detail: he smokes a pipe while his ‘Members’, ear, nose and arms are hacked off and thrown on the fire. Only at the cutting of this other Arm, his Head Sunk, and his Pipe drop’d’. In one of his expeditions, Oroonoko had recoiled from the self-mutilation of the strange Native Americans. Through mutilation by others, he himself is made strange.
The tale of Oroonoko is told by a narrator, who is usually identified with the author Aphra Behn. This narrator writes as a colonist, mourning the fact that after she left Surinam the colony fell to the Dutch, and King Charles II thereby lost a rich land to exploit. She is frank in her admiration and compassion for the ‘royal slave’ Oroonoko; she is also aware of the threat he poses to the corrupt community to which ultimately she belongs. His companion is not the outspoken Englishwoman who will control his tale, but the decorous romance figure of Imoinda, who the narrator makes exotic through the description of the elaborate patterning on her body and submissive death at her husband’s hands.
Behn depicts the natives of Surinam, with whom the British live, as being in “perfect peace,” as innocent as Adam and Eve. Their native innocence is set against the corruption of civilization which is identified, in this work, with Europeans (1). The native people are portrayed as having basic human virtues such as creative artistry (“beads of all colors, knives, axes, pins and needles”) and modesty (“very modest and shy and despite living practically naked, there is never seen among them any improper indecent behaviour,” 2). They have basic survival skills which are lost by advanced technological societies; they can climb trees and fish for food. Morally, they are far better than the European slave traders, who also lie (although the vast majority of Europeans were not slave traders). The African prince Oroonoko is a model of nobility and honor, a magnificent physical powerhouse capable of killing two tigers that the whites could not kill. Oroonoko also will die for his belief in freedom.
Behn’s presentation of the natives and cololonists is mixed, and despite the model of the noble savage, she fully embraces the innate superiority of European people and European culture. The natives really are depicted as savages: “they cut into pieces all they could take, getting into houses and hanging up the mother and all her children about her” (54). When the narrator accompanies her social group of whites to the native village, the natives practically fall down in adoration of their skin, clothes, shoes and hair. Also, Oroonoko is portrayed as beautiful in terms of European physiognomy: “The most famous statuary cou’d not form the figure of a man more admirably turned from head to foot… His nose was rising and Roman, instead of African and flat. His mouth, the finest shap’d that could be seen… The whole proportion and air of his face was so noble, and exactly formed, that, bating his colour, there cou’d be nothing in nature more beautiful, agreeable, and handsome” (8). Oroonoko is exceptional even among his people because he was educated and taught manners by a French tutor. His great virtue might be attributed to his nonnative education.
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. Behn, like other writers from her era, felt greatly disheartened that her countrymen could behead the late king Charles I (1649) and that countless assassination attempts continued on his son, the restored Charles II. Such writers feared that the British possessed a general predisposition towards violence, greed, and disobedience. For instance, the British slave trading captain first befriends Oroonoko, but later betrays him and twice lies to him, and then sells him to Trefry. In addition, Byam, the real-life historical deputy-governor of Surinam, also pretends friendship with Oroonoko and similarly assures him over and over again of his eventual freedom. Later, however, Byam hunts him down, whips him, and without a thought orders he be put to death. The author refers to Byam’s greed (“he was one who loved to live at others’ expense” and illustrates how he acts with kindness and friendship to someone’s face and then plots behind his back (70).
The barbarism Behn fears is inherent in the British nature is particularly apparent in the character Bannister, “a fellow of absolute barbarity,” the member of Byam’s elected council who condemns Oroonoko to death. Bannister captures Oroonoko and tells him honestly that he will “die like a dog,” to which the African prince replies gratefully that he has finally heard white man tell the truth (76-77). Even Trefry, who indeed is truthful and kind though he is an overseer of slaves, remains blind to the plight of all the other slaves in his charge. And while he defends Oroonoko, he never takes action on his and Imonida’s behalf; he remains passive and helpless. Finally, even the narrator, who means well and befriends Oroonoko, runs away at the first sign of trouble. Like the other whites, she is two-faced. She assures him of her undying devotion, but shewarns immediately after that she and the others do not “trust him much out of our view, nor did the country who feared him”.
If this pattern is common among British colonists, Behn suggests, the British are not suited to engage in colonialism
Q.3. Comment on the major themes in Aphra Behn’s “Oroonoko”.
Ans. The Toll of Slavery :
Behn writes for 17th-century readers who have accepted slavery as a way of life. Oroonoko’s fight for freedom and his condemnation of slave traders reveal the human cost of slavery. He and Imoinda lack power over their own bodies and lives.
When Oroonoko is captured, his nobility is put to the test. Slavery becomes a trial of character for the hero. At first he fights using the skills of diplomacy. He negotiates with the ship captain for his release from chains and tells his fellow slaves to accept their fate with courage. In Suriname, however, he learns that good behavior won’t make slavery any better. The condition is dehumanizing no matter how nobly he and others try to bear it. Plus, he can’t negotiate with the European slave masters because they don’t keep their promises. After failed attempts to buy his freedom from Trefry, Oroonoko sees he’s trapped as a slave no matter what. He determines the only way to fight violence is through insurrection and rebellion. His captors then punish him brutally. The story shows that slavery brings out the worst and most violent of human impulses.
Slavery also affects Oroonoko and Imoinda’s view of the future. Once they realize their unborn child will never enjoy freedom, they decide death is better for both the child and Imoinda. When Oroonoko pushes his fellow slaves to rebellion, he tells them slavery will last for eternity. They will never be anything other than slaves unless they resist. Their names have been changed, and their families have been separated. Their identities are irrevocably altered. After the rebellion, the slaves give in to their masters, revealing how slavery has affected their view of themselves. They see they can only survive through obedience. Oroonoko’s final fate shows them the cost of resistance the lack of power even the royal slave has over his own life.
The Honour Code:
To Oroonoko, honor means keeping his word, living with dignity, and defending his people. Honor is more important to him than life. This dedication to a code, a feature of many heroes in epic and medieval literature, elevates Behn’s hero to a higher plane than the rest of the characters. The honor code affects Oroonoko’s actions both as a warrior and as a frustrated slave.
When Oroonoko fights, he comes to win. After the loss of Imoinda, what breaks through Oroonoko’s depression is the possibility his army might lose. When Oroonoko battles the slave traders in Suriname, he continues to fight after his fellow slaves have betrayed him for the other side. If he is under attack, he will defend himself to the point of death.
However, honor includes obeying the terms of the world in which he operates. When the narrator sees that Oroonoko is growing restless in Suriname, she wants to ensure he won’t harm the settlers. Oroonoko agrees “he could do nothing that honor should not dictate.” When Oroonoko gives his word, he keeps it. Otherwise, as he explains to the ship captain, “all brave and honest men” will despise him. Even when Oroonoko is surrounded by dishonest men such as slave traders, he obeys a higher law than those around him.
European Colonialism and Power Colonialism, or the process of occupying and controlling another country, extended the British Empire around the world. Behn doesn’t condemn colonialism-she accepts England’s domination of other countries as an essential part of trade. Still, she examines colonialism’s impact on native populations and on the colonizers themselves.
Behn’s narrator imagines the native population living in blissful harmony with nature before colonists arrived in Suriname. Their innocence means they don’t have any concept of dishonesty, vice, or evil. She compares them to Adam and Eve in biblical legend, who lived in peace before knowledge was introduced to the world. With knowledge came sin. Behn compares the colonizers’ attempt to civilize native populations with the devastating introduction of knowledge to people who were better off without it. Colonizers introduce religion and laws, practices the Europeans consider necessary to preserve order. However, Behn’s narrator argues that these practices only teach native people to lie, scheme, and manipulate. The African country of Coramantien has strict laws, but the citizens follow these laws and respect them. Even the cunning king, who abuses his power to marry Imoinda, feels guilty he didn’t give her an honorable death. Behn portrays Coramantien as more civilized and self-regulated than the European society that enslaves Coramantien’s people.
Colonialism may sustain England’s economy as a whole, but it can also corrupt individuals. Behn’s narrator observes how power reveals the vicious nature of settlers such as Byam. The council of English colonizers, with whom Byam discusses Caesar’s fate, consists of lawless men who swear and fight with one another. They are encouraged to govern their slaves with fear and intimidation; Byam sends quarters of Caesar’s body to slave masters so they can scare their slaves into obedience. Behn portrays some slave masters, such as Trefry and Colonel Martin, as essentially decent men, but they don’t have as much power as those who are willing to govern through violence. They can’t stop Caesar’s punishment and death.
Q.4. Critically comment on the historical context of Aphra Behn’s Oroonoko.
Ans. Literary Models for Oroonoko:
Though Oroonoko’s story takes place in Africa and South America, it reflects western European literary traditions. Behn borrows from genres such as medieval courtly romance, heroic drama, and travel narrative.
Medieval prose romances, written for aristocratic audiences and often based on Arthurian legend, were popular in England at the beginning of the 17th century. These romances often took place in a royal court, giving rise to the term courtly love. Noble knights pursued ladies in distress. Lovers were separated and then reunited. Oroonoko and his love interest, Imoinda, have a similar story in many respects.
Oroonoko is a prince in an African court. His goals include victory on the battlefield and reunification with his lover. Like a medieval knight, he’s conflicted between his duty to the king and his love for Imoinda. His actions are guided by a strong sense of honor, like the chivalric code of Western medieval romances. Behn describes Oroonoko as having “refined notions of true honor” and “softness … capable of the highest passions of love and gallantry,” phrases recalling a romantic hero or knight in a medieval romance.
Behn, a playwright, was also inspired
by the heroic drama of England’s Restoration period (1660-88). These dramas featured themes of courage, love, and honor, which Behn adapted for Oroonoko. The larger-than-life traits of Behn’s protagonists Oroonoko and Imoinda may have been borrowed from characters of heroic drama that display extraordinary virtue and valor. Heroic plays took cues from ancient epics with clear heroes and villains. Noble heroes perform sacrificial good deeds and face down monstrous enemies. Behn similarly depicts Oroonoko as a courageous warrior and Suriname’s colonizers as evil cowards. Heroes of heroic drama may also deliver long speeches, such as Oroonoko’s speech calling his fellow slaves to rebel.
Western drama and epics affect Behn’s physical descriptions of her characters. Behn frequently describes Oroonoko and Imoinda’s unusual beauty. But both lovers have traits considered attractive in a Eurocentric culture. Oroonoko’s height, his “rising and Roman” nose, the shape of his mouth, and his long hair all conform to Western ideals of attractiveness. Oroonoko also has a Western classical education and conducts himself like a member of a “European Behn was one of several Restoration playwrights to depict non-European royal princes who act like European monarchs. These characters display a form of nobility her English readers and audience understood. It also showed respect for the English royal family and monarchs such as James II, whom admired.
Behn The narrator, a British woman recounting her travels to America, has many similarities to Behn herself. In this respect Oroonoko forms a travel narrative, or collection of observations written by a visitor to a foreign country. Many travel narratives come from the perspective of a Western visitor in a non-Western land, noncolonized or colonized. Readers, presumed to be Western themselves, experience new surroundings through the story.
Truth and Fiction:
The subtitle of Oroonoko includes History.” Behn’s narrator assures the reader she’s recounting true events involving a real hero. Many details may reflect Behn’s own time in Suriname, and she references historical personalities and events. However, almost all the main characters are fictional, and so is the plot. Oroonoko is fiction described elements of storytelling and memoir. she’s as truth, combining This technique immerses the reader in the story. By insisting recounting the truth, Behn’s narrator gains authority. The assertions of truth increase the story’s emotional impact. herself as a character in also Behn frequently includes a modified version of her writing. The narrator of Oroonoko resembles Behn in many ways. She’s an Englishwoman with in-depth knowledge of the novella’s Suriname setting. She describes Suriname’s flora, fauna, weather, and plantations in intimate detail. However, the narrator has an inflated social status compared to Behn. The narrator’s father is a governor of several colonies, and she resides at the the plantation. , is based
best house on The character of William Byam, the villainous deputy governorin fact. Byam was Suriname’s deputy governor until 1667, when the Dutch took over the colony. Lord Willoughby, the actual Englishman who founded the colony of Suriname, does not appear in the novella but is referenced as the absent governor. Willoughby was the ruler of the colony, but he frequently traveled, leaving Byam in charge. Other English and Irish characters, such as the sympathetic Trefry and Colonel Martin and the cruel Banister, were modeled but not named after real colonists. The colonists’ behavior in the story is modeled after Behn’s observations in Suriname.
Behn injects an uncomfortable amount of reality including names and practices her readers might know. The true horror of slavery was practiced by real people-a fact Behn doesn’t let her readers forget. The Transatlantic Slave Trade in Suriname : In 1688 when Oroonoko was published, African slavery in North and South America was growing as a viable economic system. England was among the European nations to play role in the slave trade. Slavery sustained the nation’s economy.
In the 16th century, English colonizers started exploring the potential of the “New World” across the Atlantic Ocean. African slavery was already an established practice in other European colonies with Portuguese and Spanish colonizers enslaving Africans for sugar production. By 1624 England had its own sugar colonies in the Caribbean.
In 1647 English nobleman Francis Willoughby, 5th Baron Willoughby known as Lord Willoughby, became the governor of Barbados, an island in the Caribbean West Indies. He wanted to expand his empire and had his eye on Suriname, a nearby colony in the northeast corner of South America. Italian explorer Christopher Columbus (1451-1506) had traveled to Suriname along a South American river known as the Orinoco or Oroonoko, the origin of Oroonoko’s name.
probable Willoughby and other English settlers looking for financial gain set up settlements in Suriname. The colonies produced sugar, the Caribbean’s main export and an expensive crop demanding many laborers. These laborers came from the transatlantic slave trade, part of a massive global exchange system transporting millions of enslaved Africans to the Americas
European countries fought to control valuable colonies such as Suriname. a major source of sugar exports. Despite Lord Willoughby’s efforts to keep Suriname under British rule, the Dutch took over the colony in 1667. Behn mentions the Dutch takeover in Oroonoko. She sees the transfer of power as a missed opportunity for British prosperity.
The slave trade wasn’t abolished in England until 1807. England wouldn’t outlaw slave ownership for about 26 more years. During Behn’s lifetime, the system of buying and selling human beings for labor was a largely accepted part of reality.
Q.5. Critically discuss Oroonoko as a Royal Savage in Aphra Behn’s Oroonoko.
Comment on the subtitle, ‘the Royal Savage’ of Aphra Behn’s novel Oroonoko.
Ans. The full title of Aphra Behn’s novel is Oroonoko; or, the Royal Savage. What is essential for the story is that it generally combines Old World romance with New World travelogue and as the title suggests, Oroonoko can also be described as a royal slave that learned to use his status. His story is filled with rejection in either way; when Byam, a deputy governor in Surinam, offers him freedom for his surrender, Oroonoko rejects in the same way he rejected his functional African setting and then rejects his European setting. In the beginning, he lived the life as a young warrior in Coramantien on the gold-trading coast of modern Ghana and (Vermeule 2010: 58) and is then captured into slavery by an unscrupulous English slave-ship captain. Oroonoko had befriended the captain when selling slaves to him as he thought he was a guest on the ship, but the captain saw slave. When they arrive in the Caribbean, Oroonoko becomes a paradoxical ‘royal slave’ when the other slaves bow down before him as their king, not regarding that he may have traded some of them into their current status The English that brought and capture him in Surinam and recognise his nobility, promise him freedom but never deliver it. For the story, his royalty means that he does not suffer the usual hardships of slavery but still, he longs for release out of his misery. Furthermore, Imoinda’s pregnancy is a turning point within the narrative because it creates a crisis over the fate of their child. Therefore, Oroonoko leads a rebellion to secure their liberty but he fails due to the lack of resolve among other slaves. He gets tortured and while being desperate and furious, he decides to kill his pregnant wife to protect her from rape. In his grief of Imoinda’s death, he becomes helpless to initiate the revenge he had planned and dies through a process of slow, horrific dismemberment at the hands of the colonial authorities. As a consequence, his enemies divide his body into pieces and send each one to a different part of the colony to demonstrate that he will always remain a and never had a chance to escape. described as a
him as any slave Oroonoko is supposed to be seventeen years old, is “Prince” and “gallant Moor,” who became interesting for the narrator as he was able to speak French and English. Furthermore, he is described as pretty tall and “of a Shape the most exact that can be fancy’d” and with a face that “was not of that brown rusty Black which most of that Nation are,” indicating that he is different than the other slaves from Africa (2013: 10). His eyes receive the terms “awful”, “piercing” and white like snow as his teeth but his nose is considered to be “rising and Roman, instead of African and flat”. The other parts of his face have the “finest shape that could be seen” except his lips, which are “so natural to the rest of the Negroes” (2013: 11). Moreover, the narrator describes him as “nobly and exactly form’d” and that “there could be nothing in Nature more beautiful, agreeable and handsome” than him. Specifically in Coramantien, Oroonoko is seen as graceful, heroic, honourable, gentle, intelligent, sympathetic, brave and “admirably adorned.
All these descriptions resemble Doyle suggests, that these details should not be read strictly as the expression of colonial racism but rather as the traditional European distinction between noble, common and the assumption that in one land there are two races that can be distinguished. As a nobleman, he is positioned above “the rest of the negroes,” as any King would be positioned above “the rest” of e.g. the English (2008: 104). The cosmopolitan Oroonoko has been influenced by many European practices and proudly shows them by selling his slaves to the English, which is an activity that seems to underwrite the luxury that the Coramantine aristocracy seems to enjoy (Rosenthal 2004: 152). He stands on the border between the traditional, hierarchical culture of Coramantine and European mercantilism, which is a position that leaves him vulnerable to capture. The Europeanised Oroonoko, who had “nothing of Barbarity in his nature” is afterwards filled with vengeful spirit and is depicted as one who thirsts for the “Life of some of those Tyrants” in return for the African blood that has been spilled in captivity. This indefinite status gets used and his aristocratic status does not preserve his body from punishment, as he is dismembered by fate and the colonists fragment a royal slave who is already fragmented within. The tale itself is spectacular and sentimentally endearing as Oroonoko is an African character, who is blessed with European attributes and characteristics and rejects his African environment but what becomes trivial is that he can never escape the blackness and African origin, in spite of all the European mimicry, social graces and displays of humanity. Critics say that his character is precisely wonderful because he is not “a typical Negro” but it is very difficult to see him as a white person, which makes the tale and Oroonoko so very special in nature. In Coramantien, Oroonoko struggles unsuccessfully to possess Imoinda’s body, in Surinam he struggles also to possess his own for the fact of his skin colour, which is a paradox compared to his supposedly benefitting European behaviour and appearance.
The non-European Oroonoko, as the narrator continuously highlights, did not know the difference between word and deed, speech and act but his “outside” customs are being absorbed into an English narrative of love. He is not a man of his country Coramantien when it comes to love and through Imoinda, he understands the meaning of monogamy, the English practice that the narrator outlines as culturally specific. The novel describes that “she should be the only Woman he would possess while he liv’d; that no Age or Wrinkles should incline him to change”. Previously, the narrator criticises, in the name of Oroonoko, the “ill Morals” that are only “practis’d in Christian Countries,” which are “Crime and Sin […] to abandon her to Want, Shame and Misery” meaning that his attitude is never aimed against women and demands good behaviour. In terms of religion, he condemns the duplicitous Christians and states “there was no faith in the white men or the gods they adored,” which indicates that he has a belief in something but he cannot practice it within the New World. The sense of honour and belief of his own people is absolute and so is their system of patriarchal dominance, a system that Oroonoko himself strains against but prefers after all. When he is tricked into slavery by white slave traders and taken to Surinam, he finds out that the white culture there is awash in liars as the whites of Surinam break their promises, have no honour and worship a distant, abstract God. His response is pure shock and he is not able to understand how the Christian God of the New World does not seem to be a bit moral. Nevertheless, he is Christ-like in integrity and guilelessness, standing noble in the face of betrayal and enters a land of captivity, where he finds his lost bride in a manner reminiscent of the principle of incarnation. Furthermore, the concept of the royal slave has strong biblical antecedents, as the Son of God is also the suffering servant.
Q.6. Comment on the significance of Imoinda in the plot of Aphra Benh’s “Oroonoko”.
Ans. The beautiful and the constant Imoinda” (77). These are the last words of Aphra Behn’s 1688 novella Oroonoko; or, the Royal Slave, a work justly celebrated for its exploration of race and power through the figure of Behn’s titular protagonist, the “royal slave” Oroonoko. It is Oroonoko’s story that captures our attention and arouses our admiration, frustration, and horror, and it is Oroonoko who gives the book its title. Yet in a narrative that foregrounds issues of names and naming, Behn’s female narrator ends not with Oroonoko’s name but that of his wife and lover. And, as is not the case with Oroonoko, the narrator expresses no ambivalence toward her. Indeed, while the second half of the novella refers to Oroonoko by the name his European purchasers impose on him-Caesar-Imoinda’s original name is restored to her in Behn’s final sentence.
Why all of this should be is a question worth asking, for it tells us that Imoinda is as important as Oroonoko to Behn’s analysis of power in a ruthless colonial world where heroic ideals of beauty, constancy, and honor are under siege.
If Imoinda is at first presented as powerful, her reality in a world where “men take [women] to themselves” is somewhat different. Oronooko himself “vows that she should be the only woman he would possess” and seems to regard her as his property at the same time that he idealizes her and acknowledges her sway over his heart. More to the point, their love story unfolds in the decadent court of Coramentien, bound by customs that privilege male sexual authority. Thus Oroonko’s hundred-plus-year-old grandfather, the king, identifies the “maid” Imoinda as the perfect woman to serve his own sexual desires in the “sort of seraglio” he maintains. The king is obsessed with Imoinda’s physical virginity, as is Oronooko, and equally obsessed with being the sole possessor of this “treasure”. Imoinda is valued as property belonging to men and despite the ways Behn’s imagery makes her Oroonoko’s equal, she-unlike him-has no real control over her body. She is forced to grant the old king unspecified sexual favors and all of the conflict that erupts at court is over the question of which man has the right to own her. As Brown puts it, “the desirable woman serves invariably as the motive and ultimate prize for male adventures”.
The critic Charlotte Sussman is even more pointed: “Imoinda is a possession even before she is a slave,” Sussman writes, and her “exile in Surinam […] is not so much a transition from freedom to slavery as a transition from one code of property relations to another”. At issue here is the “transition” itself. It contrasts with Oroonko’s transition into captivity: where he is tricked by a slave trader and is in that way complicit in his own domination, Imoinda is passively sold by the king. She has no choice about the fate of her body-a state that persists in the New World. Here her owner, Trefry, is tempted to rape her and her pregnancy prompts Oroonoko (now Caesar) to revolt against European colonial rule because her child (which he as his) will belong to her owners, not to her. Hence, though regards Imoinda and Oroonoko are equally matched in many ways-Venus to Mars, elite courtier to elite courtier-Behn reminds us again and again that Imoinda’s body has never belonged to her. While most of our attention is drawn to the domination of one religious and ethnic group by another, Behn also suggest that, the world over, one gender is programmatically dominated by the other.
Most feminist criticism, like that of Brown and Sussman, focuses on the ways Imoinda is depicted as a “possession” rather than a person. Clemene, the name she is given in the so-called New World, seems to claim her as the property of those who rename her, and when Oroonoko slits her throat not long before his own death, he not only characterizes her as “the price” he has paid for his own “glory,” but buries her only up to the neck so that “only her face he left yet bare to look on,” as if to claim her as an art object that belongs to him. At the same time, however, we are told that once Oroonoko had done so, “he had not power to stir from the sight of this dear object” and we also learn that she herself wanted to die: “He found the heroic wife faster pleading for death than he was to propose it”. It is also Imoinda who urges Oroonoko to revolt. Once she “began to show she was with child, [she] did nothing but sigh and weep for the captivity of her lord, herself, and the infant yet unborn”. And during the rebellion itself, Imoinda fights heroically beside her husband on a continent whose major river, the Amazon, is named after the legendary women warriors of the Greco-Roman past: “Imoinda who, grown big as she was, did nevertheless press near her lord, having a bow and quiver full of poisoned arrows, which she managed with such dexterity that she wounded several and shot the governor in the shoulder”.
Behn’s Imoinda can thus express her power and heroism only in limited, oblique ways. She is constrained by the realities of cultures that privilege men whether they are in Surinam or in Coramantien, or indeed in England, where Behn’s implied (female) reader resides. But, as Sussman observes, within these constraints, Imoinda finds ways to “take [her] biology into [her] own hands”, paradoxically controlling her own physical life by giving power over it away to her husband. Oroonoko’s spectacular brutalization commands most of our attention, but Behn wants us to see Imoinda’s as well. Unlike his, hers happens in the day-to-day and as a matter of course. When Behn celebrates her great beauty-the beauty that marks her as Oroonoko’s romantic equal-she thus also makes us see Imoinda’s pain, her scars. Praising Imoinda’s “modesty and her extraordinary prettiness,” Behn’s narrator also notices that she is “carved in fine flowers and birds all over her body”. Imoinda’s body registers an indigenous African body art not constrained by the European standards that Behn asserts elsewhere: “I had forgot to tell you,” says Behn’s narrator, “that those who are nobly born of that country are so delicately cut and ra[zled all over the fore part of the trunk of their bodies that it looks as if it were Japanned, […] the works being raised like high points round the edges of the flowers. Some are only carved with a little flo ver or bird at the sides of the temples, as was Caesar; and those who are so carved over the body resemble our ancient Picts that are figured in the chronicles, but there carvings are more delicate.”
Why did the narrator almost “forg[e]t to tell” us about Imoinda’s beautiful scars? Why is she telling us about them now? Perhaps because they have always been there, taken for granted in something of the way that the earth itself-evoked in Imoinda’s “flowers and birds,” the tree-like “trunk” of her body-is taken for granted, and wounded so “you” can live. The word “world” appears again and again in a novella whose action covers a good part of the globe. Imoinda’s body here is a world. Not just a natural world but a world of nations: it is “japanned” (seeming lacquered), it recalls the “ancient Picts” of Britain who were also tattooed, it is created through the indigenous arts of Africa, and it brings to mind the vegetation we see in Surinam. Imoinda is the world, Behn seems to say, the world at its best, harmonious and fertile and diverse.
So it is no wonder that “Imoinda” is the last word of Oroonoko. It’s an unusual name that Behn probably made up. But we cannot help but notice the first letter-“I” — that links her to the “I” of the female narrator. And the second syllable, “moi,” is the French word for “me,” tightening that link while reminding us that this is a name that incorporates the beauties of many different languages. The slave name imposed on Imoinda, Clemene, is all but forgotten. But the word “Clemene” recalls the idea of “clemency,” meaning forgiveness and, ultimately, grace. In the brutal world of power that Behn depicts, “the beautiful and the constant Imoinda” leaves open the possibility of grace.
Q.7. Comment on role of the narrator in Oroonoko.
Ans. In Aphra Behn’s Oroonoko, the narrator is a female Englishwoman, and possibly the direct voice of the author, Aphra Behn, who lived in Suriname for a while and may have had similar experiences to the narrator. Almost the whole of Oroonoko is told in the narrator’s voice and from her perspective. For the most part, the narrator is open-minded (for her time) and not entirely bigoted in her opinions of the native peoples of the European colonies. She sees these “natives” as close descendants of Adam and Eve before the Fall of Man, but her opinions toward black Africans seems to be a bit murkier. While she highly esteems Oroonoko, there is a sense that he is the exception, not the rule, when it comes to African. While the narrator abhors how Oroonoko is treated, she never admits that she has a problem with the institution of slavery itself-the main injustice decries is that a natural king like Oroonoko should be treated so disrespectfully. The narrator admires the foods and customs of the ethnic groups she comes into contact with, and in general she has a keen sense of adventure. She describes her health as poor, and is very sensitive to all kinds of odors. Her closest friends include Oroonoko and Imoinda, who often dine table.
Behn establishes her authority within the opening lines and consistently reminds her audience of her position as narrator by mentioning her personal role in the story. In the second paragraph, Behn establishes this authority by saying, ?I was myself an eyewitness to a great part of what you will find here set down, and what I could not be witness of, I received from the mouth of the chief actor in this history, the hero himself who gave us the whole transactions of his youth…(1867) In this passage, Behn uses first person and testifies that she was indeed a personal acquaintance of Oroonoko. She also says that Oroonoko gave her his life history from his own mouth. The rest of Oroonoko, Behn was herself, ?an eyewitness?. This also means that the author and the narrator are one single entity. Behn acknowledges that it is she who writes this story, through her own narration. In other words, the narrator is not a character of the story, but the authoritative author.
Throughout the first half of the story, Behn maintains an aura of authority through various devices. She speaks to her readers almost as if in an informal conversation, using contractions such as “em”. Behn. also frequently uses asides such as in the following, “There is a certain ceremony in these cases to be observed, which I forgot to ask him how performed; but ’twas concluded on both sides that, in obedience to him…” (1872) In this Behn draws her readers into an intimate account of a personal story. To strengthen her position, Behn’s account is wrought with detail. One would assume that the readers of her time would be quite unfamiliar with her subject matter, so she seeks to enlighten with descriptions of detail. For example, Behn describes Oroonoko, “[h]e was pretty tall, but of a shape the most exact that can be fancied. The most famous statuary could not form the figure…. His face was not of that brown, rusty black which most of that nation are, but a perfect ebony or polished jet. His eyes were the most awful that could be seen, and very piercing, the white of ’em being like snow, as were his teeth. His nose was rising and Roman, instead of African and flat; his mouth the finest shaped that could be seen…” (1871) Without this detail that Behn paints, her readers could not have such a clear picture, but because she was there, she has taken it upon herself to provide her audience with a clear image.
Behn also made a statement about Christianity by comparing Oroonoko?s morality with that of the Christian men. ?For the captain had protested to him upon the word of a Christian, and sworn in the name of a great God, which he should violate, he would expect eternal torment in the world to come.” Behn then includes Oroonoko’s retort, “Let him know I swear by my honor; which to violate, would not only render me contemptible and despised by all brave and honest men…”
Through Behn’s depiction of the two men, the captain and Oroonoko, she expresses the contrasting moral values, thus making a strong point about her own culture. As the author and narrator, she exercises her authority to do so, making simultaneously, a point about her position of authority. Had she not been able to represent, in herself, a position of authority, she would not have taken such a stance. Finally, in the closing lines of her story, Behn acknowledges that she, “by the reputation of her pen” has the authority to convey such a story. In those innocent six words, Behn not only acknowledges her authority of Oroonoko’s story, but her own greatness as author as well.
Q.8. Consider Oroonoko as a tragic hero in Aphra Behn’s “Oroonoko”.
Ans. “I do not pretend, in giving you the history of this royal slave, to entertain my reader with the adventures of a feigned hero whose life and . fortunes fancy may manage at the poet’s pleasure; nor in relating the truth, design to adorn it with any accidents but such as arrived in earnest to him. And it shall come simply into the world, recommended by its own proper merits and natural intrigues; there being enough of reality to support it and to render it diverting without the addition of invention.”
These are the opening lines of Aphra Behn’s 1688 novel, Oroonoko, appearing ever so appropriately below the book’s equally self-authenticating subtitle, The Royal Slave, a True History. From the novel’s title and opening sentences, we may already surmise Behn’s endeavor: to portray not mere “fantasy” or “pleasure” for only the entertainment of the reader, but to recount without any narrative adornment the “natural intrigues” and “proper merits” of the truth surrounding a certain hero. That is to say, Oroonoko, in some definitive sense, opens with a plea for its own legitimacy. Behn implores that her book is an unembellished retelling of the truth – a history, and as such, a promise to make intelligible to readers historical events exactly as they happened. And as we enter the novel, it becomes clear that Behn’s ambition to most truthfully portray her narrative is undertaken through borrowing the language of the epic and the Shakespearean drama. That is to say, it is through the appropriation of pre-existing literary forms that Behn endeavors to lend hyper-intelligibility to her narrative. Oroonoko, the grandson of the king of a West African tribe, is the novel’s hero and main character who is eventually shipped to Surinam as a slave, but throughout the book he is unremittingly portrayed in the vein of a classic European hero. He is described as possessing distinctive qualities of integrity, morality, and strength that the narrator closely associates with European nobility; he is reverentially named Caesar upon his arrival in Surinam; and
his actions – even his looks – are constantly likened to the most honorable Roman war heroes and deities. Thus, it is overwhelmingly clear that Behn craves to tell the story of Oroonoko as if he were a gallant European hero abound in a foreign land. She attempts to map onto the highly differentiated society of Surinam the conventional, literary-inspired antiquities of the European tradition. Yet, as the novel progresses, we discover that Oroonoko, possessing the royal qualities Behn has ascribed to him, does not fulfill his role as an epic hero. He loses his one true love to his own grandfather; he is captured and sold into slavery; once in Surinam, he is unable to lead a slave rebellion; and he is eventually led to kill his wife, his unborn child, and ultimately himself in a fit of utter hopelessness towards his intractable position within the institution of slavery. In this way, Oroonoko becomes less an epic hero and more an archetypal Shakespearean tragic hero: a royal who possesses individual honor but is plagued by loss, revenge, and fatallydirected courage that ultimately results in his own demise.
In the story of Oroonoko, Oroonoko, an African prince, is forced to face many trials and tribulations. Eventually he is given the name “Caesar”, and although this may seem like a small detail, it plays an integral part in the story. It is no coincidence that he was given the name so famously associated with the story and character Julius Caesar. This should not just be something the reader passes by without a thought. Author Aphra Behn makes this change to purposely let the reader see what is in the coming future. Oroonoko going by Caesar can foreshadow the events to come. Oroonoko can also be compared to Julius Caesar because of the great man he is regarding characteristics and social status. The main reason for this name change is to foreshadow the tragedy and betrayal Oroonko will face, just like Julius Caesar.
The story of Oroonoko starts with the African prince participating in battle. He has been trained to be a great leader and a military man. The narrator of the story shares her opinion, saying it was said “the most illustrious courts could not have produced a braver man” (Behn 2140). After his battles, Oroonoko falls in love with a women name Imoinda. This love becomes forbidden, so Oroonoko sneaks into the King’s house to see her. He gets caught and is forced to run and leave her. Because of this event, the King sells Imoinda into slavery, but Oroonoko is told she is dead. Here the reader witnesses the first tragic event to happen in the story. Oroonoko must deal with the loss of his lover, but he keeps fighting and tries to move on with his life. Just when things are starting to look up, Oroonoko is betrayed again. When he and some other men go aboard a ship, they are taken captive and are informed they will be shipped and sold as slaves. Oroonoko is sold to Mr. Trefy, but is never put to work because of his higher social status and overall appearance. It is this point in the story when Oroonoko is given the name Caesar by Mr. Trefy. Trying to “Americanize” him by giving him another name just turned him
into a larger symbol for the reader to analyze. During this time, Trefy also unknowingly reunites Oroonoko with Imoinda, and their love can now start. Together at last, their love flourishes, and for a small amount of time, there is peace in Oroonoko’s life. Turmoil begins again when Oroonoko convinces all the slaves to revolt and run away. Soon they are all being hunted down, and Oroonoko must think of a way to bring his wife and unborn child freedom. Seeing no happy ending in sight, Oroonoko creates a plan to kill his wife, then himself. He succeeds in killing his wife, but then is overcome with guilt and is left mourning over his wife. He is unable to kill himself, and eventually he is found. Byam and his men tie him up and start to torture him. They chop off body parts until he bleeds out and dies. This horrific ending is representative of the tragic life of Oroonoko. The narrator decides that Oroonoko “died [a] great man, worthy of a better fate”. Oroonoko faced many times of betrayal and tragedy, just as Julius Caesar did.
Q.9. Comment on the Dramatic adaptation of Aphra Behn’s Oroonoko.
Ans. Aphra Behn’s Oroonoko was not a very substantial success at first. The stand-alone edition, according to the English Short Title Catalog online, was not followed by a new edition until 1696. Behn, who had hoped to recoup a significant amount of money from the book, was disappointed. Sales picked up in the second year after her death, and the novel then went through three printings. The story was used by Thomas Southerne for a tragedy entitled Oroonoko: A Tragedy. Southerne’s play was staged in 1695 and published in 1696, with a foreword in which Southerne expresses his gratitude to Behn and praises her work. The play was a great success. After the play was staged, a new edition of the novel appeared, and it was never out of print in the eighteenth century afterward. The adaptation is generally faithful to the novel, with one significant exception: it makes Imoinda white instead of black (see Macdonald), and therefore, like Othello, the male lead would perform in blackface to a white heroine. As the taste of the 1690s demanded, Southerne emphasizes scenes of pathos, especially those involving the tragic heroine, such as the scene where Oronooko kills Imoinda. At the same time, in standard Restoration theatre rollercoaster manner, the play intersperses these scenes with a comic and sexually explicit subplot. The subplot was soon cut from stage representations with the changing taste of the 18th century, but the tragic tale of Oroonoko and Imoinda remained popular on the stage.
Through the 18th century, Southerne’s version of the story was more popular than Behn’s, and in the 19th century, when Behn was considered too indecent to be read, the story of Oroonoko continued in the highly pathetic and touching Southerne adaptation. The killing of Imoinda, in particular, was a popular scene. It is the play’s emphasis on, and adaptation to, tragedy that is partly responsible for the shift in interpretation of the novel from Tory political writing to prescient “novel of compassion.” When Roy Porter writes of Oroonoko, “the question became pressing: what should be done with noble savages? Since they shared a universal human nature, was not civilization their entitlement,” he is speaking of the way that the novel was cited by antislavery forces in the 1760s, not the 1690s, and Southerne’s dramatic adaptation significantly responsible for this change of focus.
Thomas Southerne’s 1696 dramatization of Behn’s novella is, in its turn, probably best known for changing the skin colour of its Imoinda from black to white. As her racial and sexual identity are reconstructed in whiteness, Behn’s black Imoinda becomes an early example of the enforced invisibility of the black female subject in the Americas’ dominant cultural discourse. In turning to Southerne’s play as the primal scene of this abduction from representation, I hope to emphasize Oroonoko’s cultural vitality after Behn as a site for the deconstruction and reformation of women’s racial and sexual identities.
For all its audacity an audacity largely unremarked by his contemporaries – the black Imoinda’s disappearance into whiteness is not the only way in which Southerne re-visions women in his Oroonoko. The play is equally taken up with the sexual disguise of its white comic heroine Charlot Welldon, who masquerades as a man for most of the action. Revising Southerne as he revised Behn, the play’s later adapters experienced its double plot – one strand dealing with the tragic fates of its newly miscegenous African lovers, the other with Charlot’s comic maneuvers aimed at finding rich husbands for herself and her sister Lucy in Surinam – as a structural defect. –
Q.10. How the life in Coramantien is described in Aphra Behn’s Oroonoko.
Ans. We get a glipse of the life in Coramantien in the second section of Aphra Behn’s Oroonoko. The king of Coramantien is over one hundred years old and has fathered thirteen sons, all of whom were killed in battle. Consequently, the heir to the throne is his valiant adolescent grandson, Oroonoko, who has spent the last two years of his life at war. He is beautiful in stature and smart. He has learned English and Spanish from the traders to whom he sells slaves. Also, his royal tutor is a Frenchman who educates him in the European fashion. The narrator has often seen and conversed with this great man “and been a witness to many of his mighty actions…the most illustrious of courts could not have produced a a braver man… [who] in all points addressed himself as if his education had been in some European court”.
During one battle, Oroonoko’s mentor and general of the army was killed by an arrow in the eye, an arrow meant for the extremely popular young prince. Oroonoko has been promoted to the position and has just come to his grandfather’s court. Here for the first time he sees his mentor’s daughter, the beautiful and modest young Imoinda: “a beauty, that to describe her truly she was female to the noble male, the beautiful black Venus to our young Mars, as charming in her person as he, and of delicate virtues” (9). They fall instantly in love. Oroonoko asks Imoinda to marry him, and she quickly agrees. He promises her that despite the fact that his countrymen take as many wives as they can maintain, he will never take another wife, even after Imoinda is old and her beauty has fled. He will remember that her soul is young. (In this culture, their promises constitute a wedding of sorts, but they do not yet consummate their love.) beauty.
The king, Oroonoko’s grandfather, hears rumours of Imoinda’s He has become increasingly feeble and yearns for his physical prowess to be rekindled. Although he knows of his grandson’s attachment, he finds an opportunity to clandestinely view Imoinda. The old man cannot help himself, falls instantly in love, and sends Imoinda the royal veil which marks her as one of the king’s women. It is the highest of honors, which no girl is allowed to refuse. Upon her arrival in the otan, the royal seraglio (which houses the king’s women and where no man but the king is allowed to visit), Imoinda pleads and tells him of her binding promise to wed Oroonoko: “she was another’s and could not be so happy his.” But the king is absolutely enamored and puts aside his feelings for his grandson: “what love could not oblige Imoinda to do, duty would compel her to.
When Oroonoko goes to visit Imoinda, he brings her a gift of 150 slaves whom he has captured in battle. But he is shortly cast into depression when he finds her gone. He would have felt better, he tells his friends, if Imoinda had been kidnapped, because then he could rescue her instead of sitting by helplessly while the king holds the girl he considers his wife in his enfeebled arms: “Oh my friends, were she in walled cities or confined from me in fortifications of the greatest strength…I would venture through any hazard to free her, but here in arms of an old man, my youth, my violent love…avail me nothing”.
In time Oroonoko reckons that his premarital promise to Imoinda supersedes the king’s claim. He plots to enter the otan to “learn from Imonda’s own mouth” whether she still loves him (15). And the king, who has been suffering pangs of guilt over the cruel treatment of his grandson, comes to believe that the feelings between the prince and Imoinda have passed. He invites Oroonoko and his friend Aboan to dinner inside the otan. Imoinda, who has been living in misery, has been led to believe that Oroonoko has forgotten her–but when the lovers lay eyes upon each other, they realize their love is as strong as ever.
When Oroonoko views the bed where Imoinda must lie with the enfeebled king, he almost falls apart. Another senior wife of the king named Onahal, who resents being discarded, comforts Oroonoko and tells him she will tell Imoinda of his undying love.
Meanwhile, Onahal’s flirting with the handsome Aboan has taken a more serious turn. Later Aboan tells Oroonoko that he believes in time she will allow both men entrance to the otan. Oroonoko is overwhelmed with joy and gratitude. His inquiry whether Aboan will be able to “caress her so, as to engage her entirely,” suggests sexual activity with Ohahal. When the king invites both men again to the otan to watch his wives dance, an accident occurs and Imoinda trips into Oroonoko’s arms. There can be no doubt about his feelings from his happy response, so the infuriated king, who thinks Imoinda took a false step on purpose, orders him to leave the court. Meanwhile, Onahal has aranged for them to return that evening to the otan.
While Aboan makes love with Onahal, Oroonoko wakens Imoinda, who is “surprised with joy.” The couple finally consummate their relationship. Hardly surprising, Oroonoko finds that Imoinda is still a virgin: “he soon prevailed and ravished in a moment what his old grandfather had been endeavouring for many months” (23). Meanwhile, the jealous king sends his guards to check on Oroonoko and to come himself to the otan when he finds he is missing. The guards, however, allow Oroonoko to escape. He rejoins his army and, in an effort to save her life, the terrified Imoinda assures the king that she has been taken against her will. Somewhat mollified, the king spares their lives but orders Imoinda and Onahal to be secretly “sold off instead as slaves to another country, either christian or heathen, ’twas no matter where”.
A short while later the king begins to feel chagrin over his decision to sell Imoinda, because being sold as a slave is the greatest dishonor. He believes that he should have put her honorably to death instead. He is concerned that he will lose Oroonoko entirely if he finds out his lover was enslaved instead of being put to death with honor. The king sends a messanger to Oroonoko’s camp to tell Oroonoko that Imoinda has been secretly put to death: “for he knew he should never obtain his pardon for the other”.
Oroonoko decides to turn over his military exploits to other men and spend the rest of his days in grieving for the woman he believes has died. He takes to his pavilion, where he sinks deeper and deeper into depression and tells his army to select another general. Oroonoko remains depressed, hoping to die, until he hears the army is actually in danger of losing a battle to Jamoan, the leader of the the opposition. This rouses him from his langor, and he dresses for battle.
When his men see him, they treat him like a deity, yet while hoping to die, Oroonoko enters the battle, takes many lives and wins the day. He captures Jamoan and does not sell him into slavery like the other captives. In fact, he treats him so well that he “retained nothing of the prisoner but the name.” In time the two become such close friends that this friendship, with
that of Aboan and his French tutor, saves him from sinking into “the disease of melancholy and languishment,” which certainly would have killed him”.
Just as Oroonoko is received at court with all the joy and magnificence that could be expressed for a young victor, there arrives in Coramantien an English ship (32). Oroonoko recognizes the captain, because he has sold him many slaves before. He invites him to his home, and the captain entertains him with globes and maps. So delighted is the captain with his good treatment that he invites Oroonoko and about one hundred others to his ship, where he treats them to a banquet replete with wine in which they overindulge. Soon, to their great surprise, the treacherous captain “gave the word and seized on all his guests,” including Oroonoko–“locking him down fast, secured him…[and] betrayed [him] to slavery (33). He rages in vain when he realizes he is helpless, he decides not to eat.
All the others follow suit, and the captain becomes agitated that all his cargo will starve themselves to death. For this reason, he sends word to Oroonoko that he is very sorry for his actions, that he made a great mistake, and that he will set Oroonoko and his people free when they come to land. Oroonoko asks to be unshackled, and the captain must comply so that Oroonoko will entreat his people to eat. He is treated well for the rest of the voyage but sinks once again into melancholy over his loss of Imoinda, who he still believes is dead.
Q.11. Describe the last phase of Caesar’s life in Aphra Behn’s Oroonoko.
Ans. In Suriname while being a slave but reunited with his beloved Imoinda and her pregnancy, Oroonoko aka Caesar grew impatient to be free. Because he is a man of action, Caesar determines to take matters into his own hands and convince the slaves to run away. Led by Caesar, they manage to escape, but their journey ends in disaster when the white colonists come after them. With the exception of Caesar’s friend Tuscan, most of the slaves flee the group, leaving Caesar and a heavily pregnant Imoinda to confront the plantation owners. They all fight bravely and Imoinda wounds Byam in the shoulder with a poisoned arrow.
With the help of Trefry, Byam convinces Caesar to surrender peacefully and promises to fulfill all his demands. They write a contract, but Byam almost immediately breaks it. He sequesters Imoinda and brutally whips Tuscan and Caesar. Byam, meanwhile, has been recovering from Imoinda’s poisoned arrow, and has also been planning his own revenge against Caesar. He calls his council, which is made up of men whom the narrator describes as “notorious villains” and exconvicts. They conclude that Caesar must be made an example of to all the other slaves, so that they submit to their masters. They make a plan to hang Caesar.
At the same time, Trefry goes to Byam and tells him to stay away from his Lord’s servants (meaning Caesar) and that his authority does not extend to the plantation—Parham is a sanctuary. Trefry reminds Byam that men with more authority than Byam have an interest in Caesar, and would not let anything happen to him. Trefry has Byam’s council kicked out of Parham House, where had been convening, and a guard is posted to only allow in friends of to stay until he is recovered.
Byam is allowed to think about his next move. He realizes that Caesar. As Caesar recovers, he begins he will never go back home to Coramantien, and accepts that he will be killed for murdering Byam. These thoughts do not trouble him, but what makes him truly sorrowful is thinking about what will happen to Imoinda and his child. He imagines that Imoinda will be raped by all the men and then killed. Caesar vows to prevent this from happening. He resolves himself to commit a dire deed that first horrifies the narrator, but which she later comes to think act-a is “brave and just.” To carry out his plan, Caesar gets Trefry to let him take a walk with Imoinda, alone. They walk to a secluded forest, where Caesar gazes at his wife longingly. Then, crying heavily, he tells her of his plan-he is going to kill her to protect her from a disgraceful fate after he kills Byam. Hearing this news, Imoinda kneels before Caesar and begs him not to leave her a prey to his enemies. Caesar embraces her and then pulls out his knife. While he cries, Imoinda looks at him with joy because, as the narrator relates, she reveres Caesar like a deity. In their culture, when a man has any occasion to quit his wife, if he loves her, he kills he sells her). and flow her (if not, Caesar stabs Imoinda, and then lays her body on a heap of leaves ers. His grief swells into a rage and he turns the knife on himself. He wants to follow Imoinda into the afterlife, but only stops when he thinks of his vendetta Byam-which cost him the life of his beloved.
Though still bent on revenge, Caesar finds that he cannot leave side. He lies down beside her and does not stir for two days. H. is slowly weakened by hunger, thirst, and most of all-grief. Six more days pass. the plantation, the colonists begin to worry when Caesar and
Back at accident has beto Imoinda don’t return from their walk. They think that some fallen the pair. A search party heads out, including Tuscan, who is now perfectly reconciled with Byam. They don’t travel far when the powerful stench of Imoinda’s rotting corpse leads them to Caesar. As they get closer to the source of the smell, they think they will find Caesar dead.
Hearing the search party approach, Caesar is finally able ing failed to do so for the past eight days. He staggers to a tree to support himself, and calls out to the search party not to come closer. The men are shocked to see the state Caesar is in, and inquire what he has done to Imoinda. He points to the pile of leaves, and they call him a monster for murdering her. Ignoring their questions, Caesar tells them to go back, and to tell Byam that he lucky that Caesar’s body is too weak to exact revenge.
When the search party returns, Byam’s Council decides that now to seize Caesar and carry out their plan. They return to the forest,
but are wary of approaching him, and ask which man will dare try to capture him. Caesar warns that he will kill any one who approaches. He cuts off part of his own throat and throws it at the men. Caesar tells them he knows he is dying and won’t achieve his revenge, and will be whipped again. A bold Englishman then tries to capture Caesar, but Caesar kills him with his knife.
Tuscan is moved by Caesar’s determination, and cries out that he loves him and won’t let him die. He runs toward Caesar and tries to take him in his arms, but Caesar stabs Tuscan in the arm. Then six men carry Caesar back to Parham House and have a surgeon attend to his wounds. Caesar’s friends rush to his side, but only see a disfigured and decrepit man who hardly resembles their beloved Caesar.
Six days later, because of the diligent care of his friends, Caesar is able to talk again. He demands that they let him die, or else he will cause death to a great many others. While his friends try to encourage him to live, the surgeon comforts Caesar by informing him that he won’t survive.
Around this time, the narrator falls ill and leaves Parham House to stay at Colonel Martin’s. While she is away, Byam sends Trefry on a hoax errand upriver. Then a wild Irishman named Banister, who is a member of Byam’s Council, kidnaps Caesar from Parham house. He brings Caesar back to the same whipping post as before. The Council ties Caesar up and lights a great fire before him.
Banister tells Caesar that he is going to die like the dog he is. Caesar responds that this is the “first piece of bravery Banister ever did,” and he says that Banister is the only white person he’s met who told him the truth.
Turning to his persecutors, Caesar asks them if he is going to be whipped or killed. The men of Byam’s Council cry out that he won’t escape with only a whipping. Caesar blesses their decision, and promises to stand still without flinching for his execution. But, he warns, if they intend to whip him, they should bind him tightly.
Before the Council begins to torture Caesar, he asks for a pipe (he has learned to smoke while in Suriname). Caesar smokes as the executioner first cuts off his genitals and throws them onto the fire. He continues smoking calmly as the executioner then uses an “ill-favored knife” to cut off his ears and nose, throwing both into the fire. Caesar continues to smoke even after they cut off one of his arms. After they cut off the other arm, however, Caesar stops smoking and his head sinks. He dies without a groan or a word of reproach.
The narrator’s mother and sister remain by Caesar’s side during his execution, but they don’t dare to intervene because the Council is so wild and angry. The Council later makes the women pay dearly for their “insolence,” but the narrator does not say how.
To conclude their barbarity, the Council cuts Caesar’s body into quarters, and then sends the sections of his body to the chief plantations of the colonyhoping to scare the other slaves into subservience. Colonel Martin, for his part,
refuses his share of Caesar’s body, and swears he would rather have a quarter of Banister’s body instead. Besides, Colonel Martin argues that he can govern his slaves perfectly well without scaring them with the body of a “mangled king.”