Aphra Behn's The Royal Slave

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The life of an African slave has historically been considered one of the great tragedies that Europe inflicted on the world. This notion is emphasized throughout the Aphra Behn’s work of prose fiction Oroonoko: or, The Royal Slave, wherein the life of the titular character is provided from his time as a Prince in Africa, to that of a slave in the New World. The story is considered to be one that blurs the boundary between fiction and historically accurate facts, with many aspects fitting into both categories. This challenge to the dichotomous nature of the genres is evident in Behn’s depiction of the slave trade, along with her emphasis on humanistic ideals throughout Oroonoko and the style of narrative selected. The fashion in which the text…show more content…
In particular, the fashion in which Oroonoko and Imoinda choose to die because “when a man finds any occasion to quit his wife, if he love her, she dies by his hand; if not, he sells her, or suffers some other to kill he,” displays this conviction (218). Oroonoko establishing that he’d rather sacrifice his wife, his unborn child, and himself over remaining in captivity is the epitome of the humanistic morality that is being conveyed, emphasized principally the latter portion of the work (Dickson 574). Specifically, this notion that Oroonoko is taking the moral high ground via murdering his wife is due to his ability to read the situation that he is put in: he either sacrifices his wife, a mercy killing, or he lets his wife suffer at the hands of the…show more content…
This statement by Oroonoko when he is surrounded by the Europeans, is meant to be a display of how Oroonoko sees only two options: either he is allowed to be treated as an equal, whereby he can leave, or he dies. As the first option has already been exhausted, he feels cheated, and will therefore not give the Englishmen the satisfaction of taking him back to the plantation. This perspective that Oroonoko has is likely based on his past dealings with slave traders whilst he was the one selling people into slavery. Specifically, this is due to the notion that enslavement did not directly result in a lack of proper treatment, for some individuals of the seventeenth century viewed a human life to be too valuable to destroy on the grounds that they were a different race (Rogers 8-9). Thus, this notion is once more reinforcing the value of human agency over racial discrimination. As a result, the story appears to reflect the ideals of Behn, supplementing the argument that Oroonoko is a historical

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