Aphra Behn’s Oroonoko

Oroonoko is the story of an African prince tricked into slavery by an English captain and taken to the colony of Suriname. In the process, he is separated from his lady love, only to be (un)surprisingly reunited with her in the New World. Oroonoko, a proud, noble, and heroic man, must choose between life and slavery, or death and freedom.

This book is… interesting. I didn’t so much like the book as find it fascinating from a historical perspective. It is written by an English woman, Aphra Behn, for a popular English audience, about an African in America. The book interestingly combined European romance style of writing of the 17th Century with the “new” genre of the “Brief True Relation”, or the early, early novel. Behn made the descriptions of the New World as fantastical as any romance-reading audience could hope for, while managing to slip in a hint of censure on the idea of slavery. Her precise stance on slavery is wildly debated, but could be summed up as, at the very least, a strong desire for Europeans to critically reevaluate the institution.

I didn’t find this an enjoyable book while reading it–it rather felt like something to trudge through due to Behn’s writing style and language–but the historical significance of the novel is intriguing, and that is probably the most compelling reason to read the book. A word of warning, however: the novel was written in the Germanic style that includes capitalized nouns and seemingly-random adjectives, and precludes the standardization of the English language.