Oroonoko Essay, Research Paper
In Oroonoko by Aphra Behn the narrator is also a participant in the action of the story. Behn uses the first person to tell the story however; she and the narrator exist as two separate entities. The narrator of Oroonoko is not important so much as a catalyst to the action of the story but for her relationship to Oroonoko, her ability to tell his story and her representation of colonial slave trade.
The narrator s main role is that a person attempting to make the audience or readers view Oroonoko as a person. She does this by presenting Oroonoko as a “European black man”, by relating Oroonoko to the reader by pointing out his moral values and his pain and loss. The narrator does this because unlike Aphra Behn, she is struggling with the idea of the slave trade, or at least the form of it that she has seen and had experience with.
The narrator of Oroonoko is first and foremost meant to be reliable. The narrator starts her story by proclaiming “I was myself an eyewitness to a great part of what you will find here set down, and what I could not be witness of, I received from the mouth of the chief actor in this history, the hero himself, who gave us the whole transactions of his youth .” (Norton 2176). It is with this statement that the narrator shows her authority to the subject matter and her ability to tell Oroonoko s story.
The narrator proves herself to be a reliable source for writing of Oroonoko due to the utmost respect she has for him as well as the trust he had for he. She parses his goodness while revealing the, fictional but nonetheless, turbulent times the Prince has had.
The narrator frequently speaks in asides such as in the following, “There is a certain ceremony in which these cases can be observed, which I forgot to ask him how performed; but twas concluded on both sides that, in obedience, to him.” (Norton 2176). There is certainly and authority to be felt when one relays a personal story even though they themselves may not be a fictional character. This is exactly what the narrator does.
The narrator is a friend to Oroonoko and as such posses feeling against the form of slave trade that she has witnessed. The narrator explains Oroonoko on a level in which Europeans can relate to him. When the narrator first describes Oroonoko she does so in European terms. The narrator describes Oroonoko as ” pretty tall but of a shape the most exact can be fancied. The most famous statuary could not form the figure His face was not that brown, rusty black which most of that nation are, but perfect ebony or polished jet. His eyes were the most awful that could be seen, and very piercing, the white of em being like snow, as were his teeth.” (Norton 2175). This description paints Oroonoko as a black man with European feature. The idea is that this man must be superior to the other African American slaves and it may even be wrong to enslave such a man.
Without the minute detail provided by the narrator reader would not have such a clear picture of and close connection to Oroonoko. The passage resonates with the air of oral tradition when the storyteller held authority over the story being told.
The narrator even goes so far with this description of Oroonoko as to compare his morality to that of a Christian. The narrator cites a conversation of Oroonoko s “For the captain had protested him upon the word of a Christian, and sworn in the name of a great God, which he should violate, he would expect eternal torment in the world to come”
(Norton 2190) The narrator includes Oroonoko s reply, ” Let him know I swear by my
honor; which to violate, would not only render me contemptible and despised by all brave and honest men ” (Norton 2190). Through this depiction of the two men, the captain and Oroonoko, the narrator expresses the contrasting moral values.
One more way in which the narrator attempts to make Oroonoko an accessible character is by pointing out his suffering and pain. The narrator explains how Oroonoko is “betrayed into slavery” and she tells the story of the loss of his only love, Imoinda. Finally the narrator tells in gruesome detail about Oroonoko s own death at which she was not present.
It is true that for much of the action of the story the narrator is not present. She is usually somewhere “down the river” when most of the events take place. However, the fact that she wishes and is sorry that she couldn t have been at the site of the action in order to try and change thing shows her loyalty to Oroonoko and her feeling about slave trade.
The narrator of Oroonoko uses many devises such as comparison and pity to make reader understand and value Oroonoko s story. The narrator s main role in the story of Oroonoko s life is not as a participant but as a friend and storyteller. She states that “by reputation of her pen” she has the authority to tell Oroonoko s story (Norton 2215). With that authority the narrator expresses a tale of a man she viewed a hero.