Top positive review
2 people found this helpful
More For Those In To Novel Development
on 21 October 2014
First published in 1688 this is probably the most read of Aphra Behn’s works today, indeed probably the only piece that most people have even heard of. As a novel it is still important, not only because it is a short prose work written by a woman, but also as it influenced other writings in the novel form, and therefore whether you actually enjoy the tale or not you can never forget its place in our literary landscape.
Starting off in modern day Ghana the story concludes in modern day Suriname, where the main character, Oroonoko has been brought as a slave. Oroonoko is a prince of his tribe and is in love and betrothed to Inoinda, but alas for Oroonoko ,his grandfather the king, wants her for himself. As Oroonoko is about to find out, the path of true love is most definitely not always an easy one. Taking a course of action in his own country ultimately leads to Inoinda being liable to execution, but this the king though on the face of it claiming that the deed has been done, instead sells her into slavery. And Oroonoko himself finds that he is taken into slavery with others, due to the wiles of an English captain.
Of course this is a novel, and so we know that these lovers are fated to meet at the destination for slaves. As the story continues we find out the ultimate fate for this couple.
This book still entertains, and as modern readers we will see more and ask more questions than her audience at the time. Behn talks about the magnificent scarring of these noble savages, but we know that this isn’t so, cuts on the face are not the same as is described here. Also surprising is that Behn paints the natives of Suriname and the black slaves as noble savages but she never manages to explain why if Oroonoko is so noble his people sell others into slavery. We all know that whatever colour or ethnicity you are no one is really any nobler than anyone else. Of course as you read this you do see that although Behn does seem to be anti-slavery she isn’t anti-colonialism, and all that entails, and she doesn’t really lay stress on the horrors of slavery that authors at a later date started doing, she only touches on this as slaves meet their punishment for revolting.
I must admit that some of Behn’s descriptions of animals in Suriname beggar belief especially the tiger as large as a cow to name just one. To us this is a piece of entertainment, but to those early readers most would have taken this as fact. That Oronooko leads a slave revolt is something that did occur throughout the history of slavery but whether there really was a person with that name who led one we will never know, although parts of his actions in Suriname can be compared to the actions of others.
Now to get to the nitty gritty of this and for you to consider whether it is for you. If you are just looking for a book to read and lose yourself in, an ideal piece of escapism if you like, then I am sorry but I don’t think this will satisfy you. If however you want something that will show you what early novels were like and how influences and other factors altered their styles over the years then this is something that you will want to read.