Is Oroonoko an anti-slavery novel?
Or, Describe Aphra Behn’s attitude towards slavery as expressed in Oroonoko.
Introduction: Oroonoko is an anti-slavery novel in which Aphra Behn sets an example to be followed by other women novelists. She shows the way to write in a new field and to fight against the strongly built unjust politico-socio-economic institution. To judge, however, whether Oroonoko is an anti-slavery novel or not, we have to dive into the deep critical sense of the novel.
The Innocence of the natives: The narrator described the locals as innocent. They do not even understand the concept of sin. The locals were as innocent as Adam and Eve before they knew how people could sin. Despite their very modest and shameful and practically naked lives, no inappropriate or obscene behavior was ever seen between them. If a man in Surinam is attacked by a woman, he will only continue to touch her hand with her eyes while her hand is folded. He sighed in love but never spoke to her. On the other hand, the woman will humbly protect her eyes and keep them down. They have no idea about sin, crime, lying, forgery, or cunning. They once mourned for the English governor because they considered him dead because he had previously agreed to attend the meeting with a handshake but failed to attend. They do not understand injustice or cunning except for what the white people have taught them. At that time Men have many wives, of whom the younger ones served the older ones with respect.
আরো পড়ুন: How does Tennyson handle myth and legend in the poem you have read?
Cruelty of slavery system: Slavery is the theme of the novel ‘Oroonoko’ which is evil out and out. The slave traders are inhuman. They capture natives and sell them to planters as products. The treatment of Orunoko and Imoinda is beyond our comprehension. The planters do not hesitate to ravish slave-women. Slaves are separated from their families and forced to work for their masters and live in terrible conditions with no hope of freedom. If they try to escape, they are punished by whipping after being caught. They live in captivity. If more than one attempt is made, they are killed. We can condemn the cruelty of the slavery and suggests that the cruelty of the slavery system should be abolished.
Lack of humanity: The lack of humanity in the novel ‘Oroonoko’ is an important issue. In this novel, we miss humanity. First of all, we see that the tragedy started just when Oroonoko married Imoinda in love. But seeing Imoinda, Oroonoko’s grandpa wants to marry Imoinda. Then we find that Oroonoko and Imoinda are sold by the old king’s conspiracy. At last, in the novel, we see that Oroonoko has died so cruelly. So, the lack of humanity is packed in this novel.
Oroonoko’s death: When Oroonoko realizes that he is about to die, he asks for a pipe of tobacco. First, Bannister cut off his genitals and threw them into a fire. Then cut off his ears and nose before throwing him into the fire. But he smokes continuously. Gradually they cut his arms. When they submerge his head, his pipe falls, and he dies. So his death is very tragic.
Oroonoko’s death is a symbolic lesson for other slaves who may revolt against the White Masters in the future. Through this symbolic description, Behn wants to intimidate her contemporary Europeans about their colonial project. Through Oroonoko’s death, Behn proves herself to be a supporter of a government party that fully supports the idea of a strong and stable monarchy. But she also tries to inform her readers about the reality of the slavery system and the brutality involved in the trade. She advocated for a better system a heroic absolute king who called for British violence and chaos
Conclusion: From the light of the above discussion, we can say that Oroonoko is not starkly an anti-slavery novel, but it has a strong touch of anti-colonialism.