Oroonoko By Aphra Behn

1474 WORDS

Oroonoko By Aphra Behn

In Aphra Behn’s Oroonoko, the author expresses her views on a African American
slave openly and passionately, which in the Seventeenth century was unsuited for
a person , let alone a woman, to do. By establishing the story from a first
person account there becomes a juxtaposition of both author and character. By
doing so the reader is able to feel more passion and anguish towards Oroonoko
rather than through some fictional fable. Throughout the story Behn is also
taking a stand for women’s freedom of writing. Not only is she presenting
facts based on an African American, she is taking the utmost liberty and honor
in doing so, and in turn she is able to convince the readers of her time that

Oroonoko is more than just a slave; he is a tragic hero. Aphra Behn gives
herself the authority to write about the life of a slave, Oroonoko, due to her
encounters with him and hearing from Oroonoko himself the story of his life.

Behn establishes her authority within the opening lines and reminds her audience
of her position as narrator by mentioning her personal role in the story. In the
first few lines, Behn establishes her authority, "I was myself an
eyewitness to a great part of what you will find here set down, and what I could
not be witness of, I received from the mouth of the chief actor in this history,
the hero himself, who gave us the whole transactions of his youth...." (Demaria

Jr. 421) In this passage, Behn's portrays the authority of her subject matter.

She uses first person perspective and declares that she was indeed a personal
acquaintance of Oroonoko himself and received from him his life story. For the
rest of Oroonoko's story, Behn was herself, "an eyewitness". This
passage also clarifies that the author and narrator are one entity. Behn
acknowledges that it is she who writes this story, through her own narration. In
other words, the narrator is not only a character of the story, but the
authoritative author. Behn proves herself to be a reliable source for the
writing of Oroonoko due to the utmost respect she has for him as well as the
trust he had for her. She praises his goodness while revealing turbulent times
for the Prince that she had witnessed. Throughout the first half of the story,

Behn maintains an air of authority through various devices. She speaks to her
readers almost as if in an informal conversation, using contractions such as
"'em". Behn also frequently uses asides such as in the following,
"There is a certain ceremony in these cases to be observed, which I forgot
to ask him how performed; but 'twas concluded on both sides that, in obedience
to him..." There is a certain authority to be felt when one relays a
personal story, even though they themselves may not be the principle character.

This is exactly what Behn does. She draws her readers into an intimate account
of a personal story. To strengthen her position, Behn's account is wrought with
detail. One would assume that the readers of her time would be quite unfamiliar
with her subject matter, so she seeks to enlighten with descriptions of detail.

In other words, the narrator is not a character of the story, but the
authoritative author. The reader is able to trust Behn's story as reliable since
she was present for a majority of his life and talks of how she perceived him as
well as how others treated him. The reader is guaranteed Behn's sincerity and
honesty in writing the story when she declares " . . . and do assure my
reader the most illustrious courts could not have produced a braver man, both
for greatness of courage and mind, a judgement more solid, a wit more quick, and
a conversation more sweet and diverting." (Demaria Jr. 424) Behn is not only
captivated by the genuine and rare characteristics of his inner beauty, but his
outer beauty as well and goes into detail of his handsome figure and beautiful
facial features and the fine color of his skin. Around the time she wrote the
story, it might not have been accepted by some people for a Caucasian women to
admire the beauty of an African man and tell people about it. Behn takes a risk
and therefore earns more of her readers' confidence that she is revealing as
accurate an account for his life as she can. One would assume that the

Read the full essay 1474 words