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Aphra Behn 's Oroonoko As A Tale Of An African Prince And Victorious General Essay

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Aphra Behn’s Oroonoko is a tale of an African prince and victorious general, Oroonoko, who loses his heart to the lovely Imoinda. First published in the year 1688 when African slavery through the barbaric trans-Atlantic slave business became established as an economic, transcontinental system. This tale draws on the popular literary themes of aristocratic romance, social censure and travel narrative. It indicates a few ways in which the British were starting to view cultural and racial differences and their personal contribution to the slave business and colonialism. Behn’s tale, somewhat broadly, is one text that demonstrates the way European literature on the subjects of slavery, colonisation and race evolved in the course of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

Oroonoko’s inspirational speech to fellow slaves clearly makes Behn’s work the very first English-language fictional work speaking against slavery. The lead character of the tale addresses his fellow slaves thus:

“And why, said he, my dear Friends and Fellow-sufferers, shou’d we be Slaves to an unknown People? […] no, but we are Bought and Sold like Apes, or Monkeys, to be the Sport of Women, Fools and Cowards: and the Support of Rogues, Runagades, that have abandon’d their own Countries, For Rapin, Murders, Thefts and Villanies: […] and shall we render Obedience to such a degenerate Race, who have no one Humane Vertue left, to distinguish ’em from the vilest Creatures? Will you, I say, suffer the Lash from
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