Wolfe and Oroonoko

The Restoration Era in England was one of the most important times in British history as it marked the returning of the Monarchy to the English throne and many changes were to occur in England following the coronation of King Charles II. King Charles II was the former King of Scotland, but after being deposed of there, took the throne in England following Cromwell’s commonwealth period. Charles promised to rule through parliament, but knavishly tried to gather power for himself. Two new political parties were formed; the Whigs and the Tories. The Whigs are similar to present day Liberals and supported parliament and were opposed to the King, whereas the Tories supported the King and are similar to present day Conservatives. Eventually, King James II took the throne and in most people’s eyes, did not succeed as a ruler. He suspended Parliament when they did not allow the Anti-Catholic Test Act to be revoked. William of Orange and James’ daughter, Mary, replaced him following the bloodless Glorious Revolution and James went into exile. The Bill of Rights was established in 1689 which guaranteed citizens basic rights and revoked James’ poor decisions. They also established the Tolerance Act, which is one of the most important Acts in, not only British history, but world history. It allowed the Protestants and the Catholics to live in harmony and forced people to practice religious freedom to a degree, which was a major success. In 1717, the Whigs took over power and in 1720 the stock market, established by Robert Walpole, crashed.

     Under King George II, the Seven Years War broke out in 1756 between England and France where the war eventually took them to the Plains of Abraham in Quebec in 1759. The commander in charge was Major General James Wolfe who was a very decorated war hero in British history. He climbed the ladders in Europe during the war of Austrian succession and the suppression of the Jacobite Rebellion. During the Early stages of the Seven Years War, Wolfe led an expedition to capture fort Louisbourg on Île Royale (present day Cape Breton island, Nova Scotia) and following his successful siege, he was promoted to lead the siege on Quebec City. James Wolfe face off against Louis-Joseph Montcalm and won the battle and Quebec fell to the British, ending the French colonial era in North America. Wolfe may have won the battle, but he was mortally wounded during the siege, receiving three musket balls to the stomach. The picture below shows a picture of James Wolfe surrounded by his subordinate officers as he passes away. It shows Wolfe in a favourable light as he was the hero of Quebec. The heroic painting depicts Wolfe dying with his allies and officers surrounding him in battle while the city of Quebec burns in the background. He was an extremely intelligent leader who would never accept special treatment because of his rank. Even while he laid on the ground with his eyes closed, dying, he was still giving orders to his men to ensure the success of the British. He died with a smile on his face when his officers told him the French were retreating. He refused medical treatment as well as he felt that the supplies should be saved for other men because his death was inevitable. Because of James Wolfe’s brave, courageous, and intelligent character traits, the British were able to capture Quebec and take over North America, effectively expelling the French.

     Aphra Behn demonstrates honour through The Royal Slave and through her main character, Oroonoko. He preserves his honour by always standing up for what he believes in and taking the higher road when events turn negative for him. When he is captured and forced onto the boat, he promises to behave himself as he realizes that an uprising or disturbance would result in punishment, which would also portray him in a negative light. He wanted to show a strong character to lift his people’s spirtis on the boat. He is seen as a hero amongst his followers for his courageous acts in battle and his bravery. People look up to him, respect him, and want to follow him because of his character.

     Through the narrative Oroonoko, we see a close resemblance between him and James Wolfe. Although the narrative was written more than a century earlier, Wolfe emulated many characteristics that Oroonoko had. For example, both men were extremely brave, courageous, and exceptional leaders and both men are also willing to make extreme sacrifices for love. Wolfe’s love for England can be closely related to that of Oroonoko’s love for Imoinda. Both men were motivated by love and fought for love. The things that they loved were drastically different though. Both men are also well respected by their subordinate officers and men that follow them into battle. The narrative was obviously not written about Wolfe, but Wolfe was very similar in character to Oroonoko. Perhaps, Wolfe once read the story of Oroonoko?

 (James Wolfe dying on the Plains of Abraham. West, 1771)

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