Oroonoko’s Honorable Downfall Essay

1835 words - 8 pages

Before even opening the book, the reader is hit with the paradox of the title, Oroonoko or the Royal Slave. This is already problematic since royalty are highly privileged people who do not end up in dire straits—much less slavery. Aphra Behn presents many paradoxes in her text Oroonoko or the Royal Slave. One of the many paradoxes she utilizes is the one that applies to her hero, Oroonoko; he is an honorable hero, who is also a naïve fool. Oroonoko was born into royalty and led a career as a valiant and just warrior. Reared for this life, Oroonoko has a character that is intrinsically honorable following his code of loyalty and honesty. His code of honor and love of truth is admirable, but it leads him being betrayed throughout the narrative. This all-or-nothing type of characteristic of Oroonoko is what led to his death because he could not bend.
Oroonoko is presented to the reader from the beginning as being a fine man who is extremely brave, Behn writes, “[T]he most illustrious courts could not have produced a braver man, both for greatness of courage and mind, a judgment more solid, a wit more quick” (12). He gains the role of general after his mentor takes a fatal wound protecting Oroonoko. This shows how much adoration Oroonoko held with his people, even the general. It is through this he decides to return to court to honor the late general’s daughter with the slaves won in the battle. He falls in love with Imoinda and decides to pledge his life to her. This intense love for Imoinda also shows his honor. After meeting the beautiful woman he vows to go against the traditions of his country, “[H]e made vows she should be the only woman he would possess while he lived; that no age or wrinkles should incline him to change; for her soul would be always fine, and always young and he should have an eternal idea in his mind of the charms she now bore; and should look into his heart for that idea, when he could find it no longer in her face” (17). His grandfather, the King, betrays Oroonoko when the king decides to send Imoinda the royal veil knowing that his grandson loves her. Oroonoko does not confront the King and this demonstrates Oroonoko’s honor, because he still respects the order of the society. This does not last long because even after he tries to part from Imoinda he is drawn into her when they lock eyes (25). Oroonoko then decides to pursue Imoinda and this results in her being sold as a slave, although the King decides to say he had her killed. Here we have a parallel where slavery equates death. This is the start of Oroonoko’s downfall.
Oroonoko is torn without Imoinda who and gives everything up, vowing that he would live his life mourning her loss. The narrator says, “[H]e was contented to leave his share of glory to youths more fortunate and worthy of that favor from the gods; that henceforth he would never lift a weapon, or draw a bow, but abandon the small remains of his life to sighs and tears, and the...

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