Love, Sacrifice, and a Lynching
When rethinking Aphra Behn’s Oroonoko, many feelings or thoughts arise. The txt conveys a very intimate narrative, based on the claim of Aphra Behn’s true and unadulterated story.
Now, the validity of circumstance, places events with which, the author is held as an eye witness, or had close hand experience, or had empirical knowledge to say the least (p.6).
Nonetheless, this aspect of validity for Aphra Behn’s Oroonoko, has become very problematic, yet does that not make the truth unreal? That is to say, the lynching of Oroonoko, where his body parts or limbs, were then spread around for all to see. “And turning to the men that bound him, he said, ‘My friends, am I to die, or be whipped?” The quote in my opinion illustrates not only a first person narrative, or eye witness account, as well as a formal decree, within the stories context of a lynching.
The following paragraph to those previous mentioned words, are quite brutal, yet would be the similar scene, in my opinion, as to the ones captured in pictures of the 20th century.However, this is not 19th century when Aphra Behn was writing in fact this quote from Oroonoko, “He had learnt to take tobacco, and when he was assured he should die, he desired they would give him a pipe in his mouth ready lighted, which they did, and the executioner came, and first cut off his members, and threw them into the fire; after that, with an ill-favoured knife, they cut his ears, and his nose, and burnt them (p.72).” In other words her quote from Oroonoko was written in the 17th century.
That is to say, Oronooko, as Aphra Behn, wrote in the 17th century, placed the transcontinental slave trade from an imperial viewpoint as well as illuminated her reader’s minds to images of what would be termed lynchings of the 17th century, and tells of how the body parts of Oroonoko were passed around to other plantations in America, such as Colonel Martin. (p.73),
Now, apart from the brutality of Oroonoko, Behn relays a powerful story of love, culture, virtue and vice. As, moved as I was, the first time I read Oroonoko, I have continued to find myself leisurely looking inside the novella, for insights to strengthen my own character.
In closing, in my opinion, this novella is a powerful, and informing, work. One that illuminates areas of race and culture, where before other narratives of the 17th century may have sought to marginalize the African women. However, the story of Oroonoko builds on the life, thoughts and emotions, of Imoinda a Black female African, the wife of Oroonoko.
Also was display in Oroonoko was Imoinda’s character and her actions. Imoinda was an African female, striving for love in the face of the overwhelming odds.
In closing, Aphra Behn told the love story of King Oroonoko and his Queen Imoinda, while illustrating the true prejudice and racism of the slave trade in 17th century America.