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“The Slave Auction ”
World Lit II Aphra Behn, Oroonoko

And are we by the chance of war become their slaves? No, but we are bought and sold like apes or monkeys, to be the sport of women, fools and cowards, and the support of rogues, runagades that have abandoned their own countries for raping, murders, theft and villainies.

Oroonoko By Aphra Behn, The First Novel Ever Written In English

Once captured, Oroonoko is thus whipped and humiliated by his former allies. Oroonoko is eventually found and murdered, gruesomely, by his captors, but not before ensuring those present were reminded he was a tough man: he smoked a pipe, noiselessly, while his enemies dismembered him. Still unconvinced? If her talent is undeniable, one should also not overstate the courage it took Behn to pursue her career.


Not only did she do so, but she survived thanks to it, and was widely known as a prolific, bawdy, and witty playwright. Europe United Kingdom England Books. Save to Wishlist. It also happens to include a fairly strong case against slavery, and is the work of the first professional woman writer. Thus in Oroonoko , she uses the black prince to figure a nobility that encompasses features of progressive individualism.


From the same mediative perspective, she can be seen to superimpose romance and allegorical patterns on a realist form suggestive of novel, travel narrative, or both. There are, moreover, signs of a widening quest to reconcile a spiritual order with the corporeal world.

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With its religious allusions, her narrative conveys an ethical message to the new world. This response can be seen to anticipate a mode of cultural criticism also evident in later ages of transition, such as the nineteenth century. Though Behn's message is closely associated with romance chivalry and a feudalist ethos, its aim is to bridge ideological schisms.

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However, Behn's effort frequently reflects the ideological instability of her own position. This approach to Oroonoko has to contend with much textual intricacy and ambiguity.

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Also, the fact that critics differ on how the realism relates to the romance features shows the difficulty of ascribing [End Page 57] a stable political and moral attitude to the narrator. A case in point is Behn's attitude towards issues such as slavery and the Other, embodied most prominently by the African protagonist.

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Maureen Duffy thus finds Oroonoko remarkable for showing "no taint of racism" regarding "people of other races and colours"; the Other is "not lesser but simply different," an attitude that calls for a realist method: "these differences she [Behn] chronicles with a typically seventeenth-century proto scientific curiosity and accuracy. The context of slavery is never allowed to have disruptive power in the novel.

Oroonoko - Theater - Review - The New York Times

Jane Spencer ascribes a more mediatory role to the narrator: "As a character the narrator seems caught uneasily between admiration for her hero and allegiance to European civilization, but this means that she can present a picture of both sides. This ambiguity weakens Spencer's point, since the hero is much commended for virtues associated with the idealized European. Angeline Goreau more specifically argues that "it is, in fact, his savagery that saves him from what Aphra sees as the moral degeneracy of European society. Laura Brown employs different premises in reading Oroonoko as a critique of colonial and racial prejudice.

Behn's method, she Access options available:.

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