This website uses cookies to ensure you have the best experience. Learn more

Defining Identity In Aphra Behn’s Oroonoko, Or The Royal Slave: A True History

1840 words - 7 pages

Throughout Oronooko, particularly in this passage, Aphra Behn focuses on identity in both specific characters, such as Oroonoko and Imoinda, and collective terms, such as “Whites” and “Negroes.” In this way, she examines the various aspects of identity, particularly the personal and cultural. Additionally, she underscores the distinctions between man and beast in relation to human identity by exploring their respective definitions. Finally, Behn posits identity as a malleable concept, which changes with context and other external influences.
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, identity is “who or what a person or thing is…a set of characteristics or a description that distinguishes a person or thing from others.” The latter definition implies that an individual must distinguish himself or herself from the collective in order to possess identity. By this definition, Oroonoko is an individual with identity. In the passage, the narrator associates him with the word “great” four times, placing him above his fellow slaves and recalling an empiric ideal, Alexander the Great (51-53). The narrator further estranges Oroonoko from the slaves by providing additional context. She reminds the readers that Oroonoko does not live in the “Negro Houses,” largely because even the English males view him as exceptional, capable of inciting revolt (52). Similarly, the indentured servants spy on him and no one else. Unlike the others in his position, Oroonoko possesses the resources for a “great Treat,” including “Musick,” (52). Here, he displays some of his former grandeur. When he deigns to eat among the other slaves, he “Feast[s],” reinforcing his grandness. However, as in his introduction, when the narrator endorses his more European features, here his glory comes not from his African heritage as Oroonoko, but from the allowances afforded to Caesar by the British Empire. In fact, Oroonoko is only referred to as Caesar in the passage. Notably, the narrator endorses this Anglicized individual while she neglects the Coramantien collective.
Behn presents an opposing perspective through Oroonoko himself. Particularly in the supposedly quoted parts of his speech, he emphasizes his fellowship with the Coramantien collective and distances himself from the “unknown,” British collective (50). He calls his compatriots “Fellow-sufferers” and repeatedly uses “we” to foster camaraderie (50). Furthermore, he says, “my dear Friends,” wielding the possessive to claim the other slaves as his peers, specifically (52). His later use of the pronoun “you” uniquely engages both the individuals and collective before him (52). In this way, he unifies the group and later gains their unanimous sympathy when they “all” respond with “one accord,” (53).
Still, regardless of whether the elevated, heroic diction employed comes from Oroonoko or the narrator, Behn uses it to distinguish him anew. He purportedly expresses the majority of the slaves’ grievances in extremes, not troubles,...

Find Another Essay On Defining identity in Aphra Behn’s Oroonoko, or The Royal Slave: A True History

Subtle Criticism in Aphra Behn's Oroonoko

1424 words - 6 pages ethnocentric and seems to have no problem with the slave trade, only with the treatment of one specific individual (namely, Oroonoko). Occasionally, however, there will be a slip, a slight inconsistency in the narrators character, which offers a glimpse of Behn's true sentiments. For example, throughout the novel, the narrator is a strong believer in religion. She tells Imoinda ". . . Stories of Nuns and endeavour[s] to bring her to the knowledge

Love in Aphra Behn’s Oroonko, and Voltaire’s Candide

959 words - 4 pages In Aphra Behn’s Oroonko, and Voltaire’s Candide, love is a subject of prominence; it serves as a starting point for both of these characters. For example, if Candide hadn’t fallen in love with his insatiable beauty, Cunegonde, he would not have been thrown from his home, castle Thunder-Ten-Tronckh, and sent on his dreadful journey across Europe. “The Baron of Thunder-Ten-Tronckh passed by the screen and, talking note of this cause and this

Courtship of Marriage Depicted in Aphra Behn's "The Rover" and "Oroonoko"

901 words - 4 pages ideal and was portrayed more of an African than he was. Compared to "The Rover", the situation is quite different. Oroonoko is the royal slave and Imoinda as his wife. This particular piece by Behn is filled with the consequences of love and desire. Imoinda is kept in a harem of the King, but his grandson, Oroonoko, is already married to her. They meet to consummate their marriage; the King learns of their love and Imoinda is shipped off to

Aphra Behn's Oroonoko as the First Modern Novel

1313 words - 5 pages upon the tomb of Aphra Behn, for it was she who earned them the right to speak their minds."  Although she was a woman of outstanding accomplishments, one of her publications truly glistens.  Oroonoko (1688), the epic tale of a heroic black slave, has often been dubbed the first modern novel in that it displays qualities utterly matchless for the seventeenth century.   Although one may not realize it, several aspects work harmoniously in

A Patriarchic Society in Aphra Behn's The Rover

1166 words - 5 pages A Patriarchic Society in Aphra Behn's The Rover In her play The Rover, Aphra Behn uses the treatment of women to suggest the presence of a strong patriarchic society and what harm can become of it. The main female character Florinda is manipulated, used, and treated horribly by men in instances of near-rape, battering and beating, and foul language among other things. Behn also uses Willmore, one of the main male characters, and his

The Slave Girl: Hegemony's True Slave

4097 words - 16 pages obsession with prosperity in him, sells her to slavery to buy a better cloth for his coming of age ceremony. As a female, Ojebeta is enslaved either by the patriarchal society or by the slave trade itself since the act of selling is never condemned but is sanctioned by the native cultural. The young girl is taken to Onitsha market to sell by her brother through a dark mysterious way metaphorically referred to as to "the belly of the earth". Through her

Defining a True Photographic Essay

1800 words - 7 pages The “True” Photographic Essay We live in a world bombarded by photographs. Whether it is advertisements, news, art, fashion, or propaganda, photographs are widely considered the most powerful form of representation. However, not all collections of photographs can be given the title of a “true” photographic essay. Even visual rhetoric theorists stipulate various requisites for this name. So then…what is a “true” photographic essay? To

The History of being a Slave

1407 words - 6 pages A slave is a person who is bound in servitude as the property of a person or household. The word slave brings us back to history around 1630's when African Americans were considered slaves to their masters (1). They served their masters as if they were just an object with no identity. They were told what to do, when to do it, where to do it, and how to do it. They had no say in any thing. Since African Americans were owned by their masters they

The History of Slave in the Cape

887 words - 4 pages an ambush the slaves just outside the city. The ambush was successful and the slaves were put on trial, they were returned to their owners or sentenced to death. After many years of rebellion in 1807 (a year before the slave rebellion of 1808) the British Government created the Abolition of Slavery Act stopping slave trade that occurred in the British Empire, as well as the laws that were made to improve the welfare of the slaves were introduced

Defining Moments in the Canadian History

1295 words - 5 pages response toCanada's economic needs. Canada's birth rate and the size of Canadian familiesstarted to increase. The Immigration Act was a way for the federal governmentto keep Canada's population and encourage economic growth. From the Act,Canada is now friends with a lot more different countries. Those counties arewilling to help out Canada when in need of help and Canada will do the same.In conclusion, the four most significant, defining moments

Why The Discovery of Insulin is a Defining Moment in Canadian History

2383 words - 10 pages great discovery. This is also makes it a defining moment in Canadian history because it shows that Canada was fighting for a cause and wasn’t going to give up no matter what got in the way. Banting is known for his work with the pancreas and diabetes and he is a major symbol when representing Canada in the medical and scientific community. Hiss perseverance, devotion, and endless hours determined to find a treatment for diabetes show that he is a

Similar Essays

Compare And Contrast Aphra Bhen's Oroonoko The Royal Slave And Candide, Or Optimism

1637 words - 7 pages Write an essay of 1,500 words in which you compare and contrast the two passages below, taken from Behn's 'Oroonoko' or The Royal Slave and Voltaire's 'Candide', or Optimism.In your discussion pay particular attention to the ways in which the contexts of European colonisation and exploration inform the two passages.Aphra Bhen was a prolific female playwright and author during the restoration period of English history. Bhen herself stood by the

Final Essay: Oroonoko; Or, The Royal Slave

749 words - 3 pages The story, Oroonoko; or, The Royal Slave, written by Aphra Behn, depicts the main character, Oroonoko, as being an African prince that lives among his people, whom all abide by a code of virtue and fidelity. When Oroonoko is faced with a dilemma in his own country and living among a “civilized” white society, that are devout Christians, he is confronted with the burden to uphold his code of virtue and maintain a title of being a “Noble Savage

Wuthering Heights By Emily Bronte And Oroonoko By Aphra Behn How Tragic Lives Of Main Characters Are Perfect Examples Of The Theme Of Alienation And Its Effects On Man's Search For Identity

1708 words - 7 pages changes and label particular time periods according to the literature they produce. Literature grows with evolving societies in the form of themes represented by its characters. While these themes embrace new viewpoints and styles, an aura of alienation, or the need for characters to search for identity, remains prevalent in the 20th century literature as a timeless and universal theme shared by audiences worldwide throughout history. While Wuthering

Politics In Aphra Behn's Oroonoko Essay

2466 words - 10 pages and racial issues, as seen in the political context. Aphra Behn, the first Englishwoman to earn her living by writing, was noted for many of her works, among them Oroonoko, which Abrams calls "an important precursor to the novel" . Oroonoko, or the Royal Slave, is a novella from the Restoration period, published in 1688, and presented by author as "a true history." The story, set in the New World, is told by a female narrator who recalls her