The Message of Equality Sent to Society in Aphra Behn’s Oroonoko, or The Royal Slave
Many writers use their literary works to convey the message they want society to hear. Often times this is done through strategies such as parallels and metaphors. Aphra Behn was the first known woman of her time to earn a living from writing. Although the majority of her background is a mystery, we do know that Behn had an agenda to teach society a lesson through her literary work Oroonoko, or The Royal Slave. In the time period that Oroonoko, or The Royal Slave was written (late 16th century), women had to submit to their husbands and were treated as if they were objects rather than human beings. As the first female writer of her time, Aphra Behn uses Oroonoko, or The Royal Slave not only to convey that slavery is cruel, but to also introduce the idea that the women of her time period suffer from inequality to men. Behn conveys a message that slavery is cruel and dehumanizing through her literary work Oroonoko, or The Royal Slave. At first Oroonoko did not see slavery to be cruel; it wasn’t until he was sold into slavery and had to walk a mile in the slave’s shoes that he realized slavery was brutal. From Oroonoko’s observations when he is a slave, he characterizes the slaves as basically animals when he says: “They suffered not like men, who might find a glory and fortitude in oppression, but like dogs that loved the whip and bell, and fawned the more they were beaten”(Behn 961). Behn also conveys the brutality of slavery by giving vivid detail of Oroonoko’s death when she states: “…and first cut off his members, and threw them into the fire, after that, with an ill-favored knife, they cut his ears, and his nose, and burned them…Then they hacked off one of his arms, and still he bore up, and he still held his pipe, but at the cutting off the other arm, his head sunk, and his pipe dropped, and he gave up the ghost, without a groan or a reproach” (Behn 970). Many critics...
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