Originally published in 1688, Aphra Behn’s groundbreaking novel Oronooko remains a rich artifact for decoding the context and era in which it was written in. When Oroonoko had first been published, the basic concept of the novel as a writing technique was still in early experimental stages. Aphra Behn, though, through countless stylistic techniques and interwoven patterns, seamlessly wrote one of the earliest and most important novels of all time. This essay will elaborate upon such stylistic traits and patterns and further the reader’s understanding of not only the novel, but also what Oroonoko really said about the culture of the time period. This essay will achieve such tasks by performing a close reading of a passage of Oroonoko beginning with ‘It was thus, for some time we diverted him.’ The passage then ending with ‘But if there were a woman among them so degenerate from love and virtue to choose slavery before the pursuit of her husband, and with the hazard of her life, to share with him in his fortunes, that such an one ought to be abandoned, and left as a prey to the common enemy.’ Firstly, this essay will illustrate the stylistic techniques that Behn used to further her perspectives. Secondly, this essay will enhance the reader’s understanding by describing the thematic repetitions in Behn’s work such as the roles of gender, class, and colonialism in the 17th century. Lastly, this essay will provide further detail upon what Oroonoko said about the context in which it was written in.
When one reads Oroonoko, one can tell that Behn’s phrasing is very particular and each phrase serves the novel in a different way. An interesting concept that Behn uses regarding the style of her novel is the voice of the narrator. Having a female narrator, especially in this era, is a very big statement, but also changes the style of this novel drastically from what it could have been, had it had a male narrator. Because of Behn’s choice of narrator, the language has some very particular qualities to it. One of these qualities, specifically, is the romanticising and exaggeration of personal matters. Throughout the course of the novel, Behn often switches between two styles of writing: one that is very observational, and the other, which is romantic and fruitful. In this specific passage, though, we can really see that Behn is trying to draw a certain level of emotion from the readers by using a romantic style of writing, while simultaneously tying in observational writing as well.
For example, at the beginning of the passage Behn is illustrating Imoinda’s grief and we can see both specific styles of writing that Behn uses.
‘Her griefs were so many darts in the great heart of Caesar and taking his opportunity one Sunday, when all the whites were overtaken in drink, as there were abundance of several trades, and slaves for four years, that inhabited among the Negro houses, and Sunday was their day of debauch (otherwise they were a sort of spies upon...