Oroonoko’s Honorable Downfall Essay

988 words - 4 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 ...view middle of the document...

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. Behn writes, “[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 continual thoughts of what his lord and grandfather had thought good to send out of the world, with all that youth, that innocence and beauty” (42). Oroonoko has become docile and slips into the gravest betrayal that sets him on the same path as Imoinda. Behn says that Oroonoko and this captain had a history of selling slaves to this captain and so the amicable relationship causes him not to question the captain’s kindness when invited on the ship. After being captured Oroonoko’s honor still manages to shine through. First he decides that death would be more honorable than slavery and so the narrator says, “[A]nd they had so wisely managed his fetters that he could not use a hand in his...

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