Literary Analysis of Oroonoko by Aphra Behn, Free Essay

Published: 2019-09-06
Literary Analysis of Oroonoko by Aphra Behn, Free Essay
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Slavery World literature
Pages: 8
Wordcount: 2084 words
18 min read

Aphra Behn's Oroonoko talks about a young, black African Prince that is kidnapped and sold into slavery like many of his prisoners of war. The writer draws most of her narrations from the eyewitness (Behn) accounts. She paints Oroonoko as a young, brave and respected soldier in an African kingdom, who fall in love with one of her grandfathers (the old King) servants (slave). The dilemma comes in when the king invites her to the kings court, to become one of her mistress. However, the kings jealousy pushes him to sell Imoinda as a slave to the whites, after discovering that her affair with the Prince was growing day and night. He, therefore, removes her from the octa, with Onahal; whom he put into safe hands, with order they should be both sold off as slaves to another country, either Christian or heathen, 'twas no matter where (Behn 172).

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After reconciling with the Prince, cheating him that Imoinda is dead, he uses him to lead the war against his enemies, and after Oroonoko defeats Jamoans army, the invites him deceitfully in a move to hold him slave and sale him alongside his soldier to whites. This is well planned by the English ship captain who was well known to the Prince, as a servant to the old King. It is in this new world that Oroonoko named Caesar by the christians meet Aphra Behn and later re-unite with his lover, Imoinda. The narration of Aphra Behns Oroonoko, or the African Prince is well grounded to the slave trade in late 1600, and she uses the eye witness account to narrate the plight of African slaves in America, supporting her story with the second person narration. Being in a position to mix both the first and second person narration gives the reader an avid account of her story painting the truth behind it. Though she does not clearly define her origin, but she identifies with the Whites- we, who had a mind to surprize 'em, by making them see something they never had seen, (that is, White people) resolv'd only my self, my brother and woman should go (Behn 201).

Behn uses some techniques to make the tale of Oroonoko seem credible. She alludes many literary works, including John Allin. An allusion gives an inner meaning of literary works concerning other similar works. Allusion helps to emphasize the main point being explained in a piece of work. Allusion also helps the reader to understand deeper what is being talked about in a story. The author uses allusion in son areas. One isas mentioned in "AN EXACT RELATION Of the most Execrable Attempts OF JOHN ALLIN," Allin ended up only hurting Willoughby and was sent to jail where he killed himself. As punishment Allin's body was quartered and "a Barbecue was erected; his members cut off and slung in his face, they and his bowels burnt under the barbicue" (Todd, Behn 11). The death of Allin is very similar to Oroonoko's, in which Oroonoko's his captors "first cut off his members" and then he is cut "in quarters" (2178), of which part are send to the plantation. This shows that, about what the slaves were going through, Behn followed the narration of Allin to make her true story of Oroonoko come true.

Another technique that Bahn embraces in making the story true is the first person account. A first person account denotes a story from the first-person perspective: the views of a participant speaking or writing about themselves. First person account makes a story more creative and cause the reader to relate with the cast (Martin). This is a literary style used in various literary works. Her first person views to help her descriptions seem more credible. For example while first describing some characteristics of the land and its people, Behn says "we trade for feathers" (148) with the women of Surinam, and then she goes on to even list some of the tools used for piercing on different parts of their body. By using this section of the work to explain in great detail what the women wore, Behn ingeniously allows the reader to have evidence of her "eyewitness" accounts and further adds to the story's validity while remaining in a conversational, first-person perspective. She goes on quote the words spoken by several characters in the story, which is an indication that shes a living witness to the accounts in the story. And why (said he) my dear friends and fellow-sufferers, should we be slaves to an unknown people? Have they vanquished us nobly in fight? Have they won us in honorable battle? (Behn 207). This was part of the quote from Oroonoks speech to other slaves on a Sunday when they planned a revolt to the whites.

By contesting the old king and the prince over the love affair, Bahn wants to draw an accurate picture that the servants or slaves face in the hands of their masters. Despite the old king having many wives, he revives his love ambitions to this young slave girl, who after failing to quench his thirst, decides to sell her off. The kings move of denying the prince and Imoinda the love affair, clearly define their status slaves, with no say in hands of their master. This means that the king can do anything concerning their lives; either killing them or selling them to the slaves.

Bahn presents the character of Oroonoko as the most respected person and vengeful. All his army respects him after hes made general after the death of Imoindas father who protected him. When he comes back from war and find out that his grandfather the king has taken what rightfully belongs to his heart, he consent to let her go but love turns him unforgiving. He plans and sneak to the court to be beside his lover, besides the kings move to have her. He also fail to forgive the governor, vowing to kill him before he kills himself. he told her his design, first of killing her, and then his enemies, and next himself (Behn 217). As she conclude her story, she also refer to Oroonoko as a most witful person than she be compared. Thus died this great man, worthy of a better fate, and a more sublime wit than mine to write his praise: Yet, I hope, the reputation of my pen is considerable enough to make his glorious name to survive to all ages, with that of the brave, the beautiful, and the constant Imoinda (Behn 224).

The writer also uses foreshadow to narrate the slavery fate of the slave. Foreshadow is indicating what is envisaged to happen. An important plot is forementioned. This literary style is used to arouse the reader and avoid disappointment (Allan). Oroonoko kills a fierce tiger by shooting her directly into her eye, a reflection of how the general died protecting him. This foreshadows a clear indication that the slaves go through difficulties as indicated by his death. During the revolt, several people were killed, beaten up including Oroonoko, who was struck up by the governor to no limit, until he swore to revenge his suffering. But they were no sooner arrived at the place where all the slaves receive their punishments of whipping, but they laid hands on Caesar and Tuscan, faint with heat and toil; and surprizing them, bound them to two several stakes, and whipped themin a most deplorable and inhuman manner, rending the very flesh from their bones (Behn 213).

The plight of the African slave as brought out by Bahn is by no means tolerated by any society. Despite her origin, Bahn also feels this and expresses her views against this. She note, However, he assur'dme, that whatsoever resolutions he should take, he would act nothing upon the white people; and as for myself, and those upon that plantation where he was, he would sooner forfeit his eternal liberty, and life itself, than lift his hand against his greatest enemy on that place p 193. (Behn 193) This statement is a clear indication that the White, the greatest enemies to the slaves, had done much worse in mistreating them in the plantation, and all they needed now was just but eternal liberty. But this dream seemed to diminish now and then the famous song of waiting for the return of the Lord Governor, who seemed not to appear any time.

In using the second person narration, Bahn proves to the reader that this is a literary story that draws the life slaves, who were sold by African Kings to the whites, a true story of a slave that live to fight this mistreatment (Oroonoko). She mixes this aspect with the first person narration to paint a clear picture of what happened during that time she was present and witnessed the slave trade. She also include dialogue in this narration to give the story vivid descriptions of the events and credibility of the story as it stands. And one day said (at the table) What trophies and garlands, ladies, will you make me, if I bring you home the heart of this ravenous beast, that eats up all your lambs and pigs?We all promis'd he should be rewarded at all our hands (Behn 197). This dialogue was experienced at a table when he promised Bahn and other women to bring them the heart of a fierce tiger that had been shot several times but did not die. This is as well a reflection of the plight of African slaves, despite the difficulties they went through, being beaten and whipped, they still worked at the Whites plantation hoping that one time they will gain eternal liberty.

The author uses a series of contracted forms throughout the text. The contracted forms bring out a kind of rhythm in the story. They also make the story exciting and memorable. The use of contracted forms in Oronooko makes the reader place him or herself in the historical period in which the book was first published. Contractions are majorly used in speech and involve the removal of vowel sounds. In written this is done by replacing a vowel between two consonants and replace it by an apostrophe. An example from the text whereby contractions are used is in the phrase Twas then, afflicted as Oroonoko was, that he was proclaimed general in the old man's place: and then it was, at the finishing of that war, which had continu'd for two years, (Behn 154). We see the use of contracted forms in two different ways in this sentence. In the first instance, the author in the word Twas omitted the letter i before which could be in full It Was. This is also seen in the word continud where the Behn replaced the "e" before d and replaced with an apostrophe. This style of writing when used in direct speech it brings a closer picture of the conversation to the reader hence making the story more interesting.

The use of vivid description is also used in the text. This style is used to describe a scenario or a character of a story to be clearer in the readers mind. We can see an instance of vivid description on page 154. His face was not of that brown rusty black which most of that nation are, but of perfect ebony, or polished jett. His eyes were the most awful that cou'd be seen, and very piercing; the white of 'em being like snow, as were his teeth (Behn). The above-quoted excerpt is a section whereby Oronooko is described regarding his features as to paint a picture of his great and heroic character attributed. Oronooko is said to be a great character his knowledge of English and French increased his scope of audiences to communicate to and get understood. The vivid description about Oronooko also paints the picture of him being the kind of person as he is described.

The author uses alliteration in various instances. Alliteration is the repetition of sounds in subsequent words. Consonance is closely related to alliteration. Alliteration is the use of the same initial consonant sound is a series of subsequent words. As a style, consonance gives rhythm to the story and makes it more interesting. Consonance also helps to enrich the story with a series of techniques to reduce boredom while reading the story. The use of consonance is evident in many instances of the story. An example of such a situation is on page 152 He had heard of and admired the Romans (Behn) The...

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