A Theme Of Nobility And Kingship In Oroonoko By Aphra Behn
What are the true traits of a king? This is a question that is observed throughout the story Oroonoko; or, The Royal Slave written by Aphra Behn. This is a historical and astonishing story about a young man that goes on an incidental and uneventful adventure of a lifetime. This journey takes him places and to people he never thought he would come across. In the beginning of the story, the narrator tells us a little bit about Oroonoko’s background. According to Aphra Behn, he was born as the last male descendant of a royal line and is the grandson of the King of Coramantien. Oroonoko is spoken very highly of for his qualities such as his bravery at war and his beauty recognized by the people. In this historical piece of literature, a true king according to the novel is defined as someone who is brave, has a flattering appearance, and as someone who is very educated while Oroonoko believes true kingship is a title of honor that is that is much more difficult to maintain than simply just looks or education.
In the beginning of the story, a lot is said about Oroonoko growing up. Unlike other children, he was sent at the age five to learn the arts of war. This was a very uncommon deed to be done. It all paid off for him though because at the age of seventeen he was considered one of the bravest soldiers of the army. Previously, his foster father got hit in the eye with an arrow and ends up passing away. With no other choice, Oroonoko had to step up and make everyone proud. If anyone is going to be a king, they need to be brave and willing to step forward to protect their country. He got a lot of experience at such a young age giving him an advantage over others.
Being brave was not the only thing he was recognized for by the people of his country. Oroonoko was a very educated young man. According to the narrator, “Nor did the perfections of his mind come short of those of his person; for his discourse was admirable upon almost any subject; and who-ever had heard him speak, wou’d have been convinc’d of their errors…” (Behn). Knowing more than one language, Oroonoko was believed to be so educated that you did not disagree with him because he would convince you otherwise. His response was always going to be the correct response to the people. He also used his intelligence on the battlefield and led his army to success. He never gave up no matter how hard times may have been. This is a true trait of a king.
Furthermore, he was also greatly admired for his appearance. The narrator describes Oroonoko by stating, “The whole proportion and air of his face was so noble, and exactly form’d, that bating his colour there cou’d be nothing in nature more beautiful, agreeable, and handsome” (Behn). He was adorned by all. No matter how you looked at him, you couldn’t find a single flaw. Looks created an advantage for Oroonoko whether he realized it or not. It is more likely that people will is going to be more respectful towards someone who has more appealing looks than someone who does not look quite as presentable.
While all these traits might seem like good ones to have, Oroonoko thought differently when it came to defining kingship. He was put up against obstacles that most people born in the royal line would not experience. Not only was he able to experience the noble and upper class side of life, but he also experienced the slavery and not so great side. After being sold into slavery, Oroonoko had a whole new perspective on the world. As if this was not enough, the king also betrayed Oroonoko. The king had multiple wives and could not just stick to one woman. All Oroonoko had his eye on was Imoinda and the king did not like the thought of those two being happy together. One day, the king decided to lie to Oroonoko about what happened to his beloved Imoinda. He told Oroonoko that she was put to death, but she was actually sold into slavery. Shortly after, Oroonoko learns that Imoinda is actually still alive and is relieved with joy. Although he is happy that Imoinda is still alive, he has a whole new perspective of the king. Oroonoko never had a problem with the king until he learned the true story. He no longer saw the king as a good person but rather a selfish one who only thinks about himself. Furthermore, he does not understand to the full extent what being a noble was like after being betrayed and sold into slavery.
In conclusion, Oroonoko was betrayed by someone he had previously trusted. This taught him a valuable lesson, yet he was determined to marry Imoinda no matter what the king thought or did. What else could possibly happen? Throughout the story he continued to show his noble traits and never gave up no matter how bad it got. This is a true demonstration of kingship and nobility. The story of Oroonoko; or, The Royal Slave is an interesting story that always had you thinking. It makes me wonder how things could have ended differently if Oroonoko never found Imoinda again or if he were put to death at the end.
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