Abby's Reviews > Oroonoko

Oroonoko by Aphra Behn
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Dec 03, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: for-school
Read in December, 2010

I had mixed feelings about this book.
There were so many interesting things about it, I hardly know where to begin.
It's a slave narrative, an adventure tale, a courtly romance, a biography, a travel narrative, a memoir, and a heroic tragedy. It's a strange conglomeration of sentiments: anti-slavery, royalist, feminist, with empathy to the undervalued and dehumanized. Behn touched on so many subjects - it gave me such a wonderful glimpse into her world.

I am familiar with this period of history, and I know about the horrible injuries and injustices afflicted upon the Africans and the Native Americans, that I was somewhat surprised with how Behn treated them. She spoke of the Indians and Africans with such respect, admiring them far more than she admired the European Christian culture.

Oroonoko is an incredibly noble, admirable character. I just don't understand the culture of the period. Everyone who saw Oroonoko revered him as a great man, yet they had no qualms about keeping him enslaved. Even Behn, though she sympathized with him, still accepted the slave system, and even justified it in some cases. Although she saw through the racial prejudice to the humanity of the slaves, she herself was still in some ways prejudiced. It was hard to get a handle on Behn's treatment of the slaves, but I realize that this is mainly because of the time difference - her audience was an entirely different culture.

I admire Aphra Behn for this story - how respectful she was of people who, by her society's standards, she should have treated as inferior, and perhaps not even as human. It is not the most well-crafted piece of literature, but it contains a lot to think about, and I am very glad to have read it.
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