Oroonko Character Analysis

1473 Words6 Pages
The other important female character in Oroonoko besides Imoinda is the unnamed female narrator. The narrator of the story does not tell us much about her. We know that her father died on the sea voyage to Surinam (Behn, Oroonoko 194). She also tells us she has an influential position and that she is respected: "As soon as I came into the country, the best house in it was presented me" (Behn, Oroonoko 195). She seems sympathetic to Oroonoko and his plight even claiming that she was respected by him: "[m]yself, whom he called his Great Mistress; and indeed my word would go a great way with him" (Behn, Oroonoko 192). However, she turns out to be an unreliable narrator. She has an ambiguous stance on many topics and often doesn 't state her opinion…show more content…
Her stance on men is also confusing (Pearson 186). For instance, she calls Colonel Martin "a man of great gallantry, wit, and goodness, and whom I have celebrated in a character of my new comedy, by his own name, in memory of so brave a man" (Behn, Oroonoko 214). However, when danger pounces in form of a tiger he is asked to "stand aside, or follow the ladies" (Behn, Oroonoko 196). Oroonoko is the one to kill the tiger in the end (Behn, Oroonoko 197). In general, there are some negative implications of the word man throughout the narrative: "a feeble old man" (Behn, Oroonoko 160), "a man of very little religion" (Behn, Oroonoko 177), "a man that had no sense or notion of the God that he worshipp 'd" (Behn, Oroonoko 181). In the end, it is a "bold Englishman" (Behn, Oroonoko 221) and "a wild Irish man" (Behn, Oroonoko 222) that kill Oroonoko…show more content…
In conclusion, one can ascribe a rather ambiguous role to the narrator. She has an ambiguous relationship towards Oroonoko (sympathy vs. fear) and his enslavement (convinces him to stay but says he 'll be free). She is excused from evil deeds done to Oroonoko because she herself is in a powerless position but by telling Oroonoko 's story she herself exerts her own power. Jacqueline Pearson sums up the role of this narrator perfectly in her text "Gender and Narrative in the Fiction of Aphra Behn" by stating:
The female narrator of Oroonoko is used as a highly effective part of Behn 's critique of subordination, of slaves and of women. Anxious, shifty, duplicitous, divided between sympathy and fear for the royal slaves and doubt and complacency about her own female powers and abilities, between criticism of European colonialism and her desire to earn the approval of the colonists, she reveals, partly by her attempts to conceal, an extraordinarily vivid image of the cultural position of seventeenth-century woman. (Pearson 190)
Behn may or may not criticize slavery but in the end she leaves it open for the readers to decide. This is only possible because of the unique role of the female narrator and her position in the narrative as
Open Document