Oroonoko: The Idol of Some

The way that Oroonoko, the character, was written was interesting as well as frustrating. As was mentioned in class, he was written as some noble savage, a man of taste, knowledge, class, and looks that was still noble and somewhat kind despite the betrayals he suffered. His character seems much too well taken care of for someone who was a slave. Oroonoko was humble enough at the beginning of his slavery when he asked Trefry to give him clothes more befitting a slave instead of the “rich habit” that he’d still had when the captain of the slaving ship had captured him. “Caesar, troubled with their over-joy and over-ceremony, besought ’em to rise and to receive him as their fellow slave, assuring them he was no better” (pg 164). He understood that he was a slave, treated well enough by Trefry but still a slave, and believed himself no better than the others of whom he sold. He was a good man who was Europeanized to make him more palatable for the white audience while still retaining a bit of his exotic nature and looks.

I’m most baffled by how nice and patient Oroonoko was considering the number of times that he had been betrayed by those around him. Not to say that he wasn’t stubborn and fully willing to just languish or die fighting during these betrayals. First, he was betrayed by the king, his grandfather, when the man decided that he would take Imoinda for himself and forced the issue of her denouncing her marriage to Oroonoko. He kept them apart and then made the Prince believe that his love was dead when she was in fact sold off into slavery, while he was forced to continue to serve as a general for the King’s army. Then Oroonoko was betrayed by the slave ship captain to whom he had sold or given many slaves. The slaves that he was trying to set free betrayed him by turning away from him and surrendering but that moment was understandable to Oronooko. He was then also betrayed by the governor who claimed that he would allow the requests that Oroonoko had laid out in exchange for his surrender. Oroonoko was smart enough to not trust this man but believed that when in a written contract this arrogant white man would follow through with the terms of the contract instead of breaking it and immediately having him whipped. He then died in a horrendous way after having spared his wife and child a life of fear and slavery.

The story was interesting but not overall something I enjoyed reading. It was well written but there is a moment in the storytelling that bothered me greatly, in an inconsequential manner but still made me agitated. It was on page 171 with the tiger being killed. “He shot her just into the eye, and the arrow was sent with so food a will and so sure a hand that it stuck in her brain, and made her caper…Caesar cut him open with a knife to see where those wounds were that had been reported to him, and why he did not die of ’em.” There was an unnecessary rush of anger within me at the sudden change of gender for the tiger who had been described as female and then after this moment was once again referred to as “she”.

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