Dr. Morillo

English 362

 

Oroonoko's many internal divisions

 

Oroonoko's grisly death--literally being torn apart-- is nonetheless fitting for the way Behn consistently represents him as always internally divided, torn between differing, often conflicting, peoples, races, genders, and values.

 

Royal / Slave               he is both royalty, subject to no one, and slave, subject to everyone

 

Oroonoko / Caesar      his "original" African name is in fact taken from a South American river /

his slave name is for a Roman emperor, but he combines some features of Julius Caesar (a nobleman betrayed and killed by supposed friends) with some of Caesar's opponent Marcus Antonius (Marc Antony) as a soldier-lover torn between loyalty to king and country and love for a forbidden woman, just as Antony was torn between allegiance to Rome and love of Cleopatra

 

African / European      He has dark black skin but a Roman-European nose; he speaks African and European languages

 

comedy / tragedy       in Africa he appears in a romantic intrigue comic plot similar to Behn's actual comedies for the stage / in S. America he becomes a tragic figure

 

honorable hero /         his code of honor and love of truth is admirable / it leads to his betrayal

naive dupe                 and death

 

loving husband /         he surely loves Imoinda, but also kills her

murderer

 

great speaker /           He orates eloquently / he 'reads' his fellows poorly

poor reader

 

masculine /                He's all man as strong warrior and lover, among Africans /

feminine                    among the English his inability to drink keeps him more fit company for the women

 

pagan / Christian        in his suicide attempt he tries the Roman 'noble death / the result leaves him looking like a failed Christ