April 12th – Oroonoko

Oroonoko’s fate is grand and dramatic as a classic “tragedy” (think Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet”). What’s different is that Imoinda and Oroonoko both die by someone else’s hand. Why did they both accept their fates while smiling? Do you believe Oroonoko’s fears on page 1139 were accurate? Why or why not?

13 thoughts on “April 12th – Oroonoko

  1. I think both Oroonoko and Imoinda accept their fates smiling because their deaths allow them to escape the indignity of slavery. As if the horrors of slavery were not enough, the whites repeatedly deceive Oroonoko making him believe one thing and then ultimately, breaking their previously made promise. When the white men try to coax Oronooko out of his rebellion, they force him to surrender by offering him empty promises which they quickly break as soon as they arrive on the plantation. The white men continually degrade Oroonoko by making him out to be a simple creature whom they can deceive. As the narrator notes, Oronooko would “rather die than live upon the same earth with such dogs” (1137). His willingness to die rather than to live among these white men demonstrates how miserable a state slavery is. He accepts his fate with a smile because he knows that at least he will no longer be a slave,

    • I agree with what Wilson said about the reason that they accepted their fates. Imoinda is glad to die at the hand of the one she loves because she trusts him she knows that he would never hurt her. Her death could have come from someone else, like the slave owners, which would have been more painful I’m sure. Also, like Wilson said, death was a better option for them than remaining as slaves. As for Oroonoko, he accepts his death possibly because he knows that he will be reunited with his love in the afterlife and also because there isn’t anything left in the world that he values and so the slave owners have nothing else to take from him except his life (he doesn’t have to worry about protecting anything else he loves). I believe that his fears that he had about what the people would do to Imoinda if he was no longer present are accurate because those people, at least most of them, were very harsh and cruel to the slaves and I’m sure it wouldn’t surprise many if they did hurt and take advantage of Imoinda in the absence of her lover.

  2. On page 1139, Oroonko expresses that what he fears most is that he would die either during or after he enacts his revenge on the governor and the men who previously whipped him and leave “his lovely Imoida a prey, or at best a slave, to the enraged multitude.” He says that he could not bear the thought, and this is why he comes to the conclusion that he should kill Imoida before he dies, as he knows that he will. I believe that his fears were accurate. I don’t think that the English would have killed Imoida, especially because she was pregnant, but I do think that her and her child would have been condemned to a life of slavery. Imoida accepts her fate smiling because she sees Oroonko as a God-like figure. She is willing to comply with and eager to serve him in whatever way possible, even if it means dying for him. Oroonko is so willing to accept his fate because he knows it is what he deserves. He has lost the love of his life and his unborn child, and he has tortured himself after their loss. He knows that death will bring him a sweet release and reunion with those he loves.

  3. In Imoinda’s eyes and the eyes of the people in her culture, “when a man finds any occasion to quit his wife, if he love her, she dies by his hand,” (1139). Imoinda willingly accepts this fate because of the passionate love that she and Oroonoko have for each other. She would gladly die at his hands before being left to the cruel hands of Oroonoko’s enemies where she may be ‘ravished by every brute, exposed first to their nasty lusts, and then a shameful death,'” (1139). I do believe that Oroonoko’s fears were possible just because of the pattern of dishonesty that the white men showed to Oroonoko. They made so many empty promises to him, a man that they felt possessed all of the great qualities that his African counterparts never could. So, in Oroonoko’s mind, if they could do that to him, they would surely do worse to his wife, and I believe they might have too.

    • I think you hit the nail on the head. This exactly what I gathered from the text as well. I also think a good thing to point out is that they both died smiling. I think both realize there is no other escape from slavery or from their actions of revolting and running away other than death. Imoinda’s smile was because her death from her husband’s hand would be much kinder and peaceful than for her to die at the hand of the white men that were after them. I think Oroonoko died smiling because he was finally seeing the true nature of these white men. Lastly, I also think that they both died smiling because they could now allow their spirits to return to their home.

  4. I agree on the idea that a large part of Oroonoko and Imoinda’s ability to die smiling comes from the knowledge that they will be free of slavery. I think that a big part of it comes from the fact that both of them have accepted the fact that their enslavement is inescapable. Earlier in the story they believed that there was a way out through Trefry’s plan, but once it becomes clear that Byam isn’t going to allow the two of them a means to be free, death becomes the only option to see their home again, as Cormantien is “their notion of the next world” (1139). Because of this view of their home as the location of the afterlife, Oroonoko and Imoinda see death as a means of returning to the life that he was destined to have and their child can rightfully serve as his heir in the afterlife. While it isn’t the same as actually succeeding in the slave revolt and physically returning home, being able to spiritually return to Cormantien would be enough for the two of them to find solace in their deaths. I also think that Oroonoko may have smiled as he was dying as a kind of means to get the last laugh against Byam. He’s mocking him in a way.

  5. I agree with what others have said about how Oroonoko and Imoinda were smiling when they died because they would be together again and away from the horrors of slavery. However, one of his fears from 1139 makes less sense than the others. Oroonoko says, “Perhaps she may be first ravished by every brute, exposed first to their nasty lusts, and then a shameful death.” Before they found each other again, Behn makes a point of saying that no one was taking advantage of Imoinda. When Trefy tells Oroonoko about “Clemene, he says that he cannot bring himself to abuse his power as a slave owner (1126). Granted, after her husband starts a slave revolt, they might have less hesitation, but it is not guaranteed, as Oroonoko believes.

  6. As stated above, I believe Oroonoko and Imoinda were smiling because they knew that death would set them free from the hell they have been living on earth, and they can be together in peace in the afterlife. Death is a release. I do think his fears are accurate. The slaves did not catch a break so why would Imoinda be an exception? Also there appears to be very little loyalty between Oroonoko and the white men,

  7. Given Byam and his men’s history of violence, Oroonoko’s fears that Imoinda, a slave, will be treated horribly. Even though Byam’s men spare Imoinda, according to the narrator, their treatment of slaves, Caesar and Tuscan, gives credence to Oroonoko’s fears: “[they] bound them to two several stakes, and whipped them in a most deplorable and inhumane manner” (1137). Imoinda and Oroonoko subsequently agree that her humane death at the hands of a loved one is preferable to the torture inflicted upon other captured slaves. Oroonoko recognizes this when “he considered, if he should do this deed, and die either in the attempt, or after it, he left his lovely Imoinda a prey, or at best a slave, to the enraged multitude” (1139). It’s a sick comparison, whether death is preferable to slavery, or vice versa, but its Imoinda’s death (at the hands of Oroonoko, no less), that causes her to smile because: A.) she recognizes that death is a more humane fate than slavery, and B.) she is dying at the hands of her beloved, whom she most trusts. One may argue that killing a loved one is inherently inhumane, regardless of the circumstances, but the narrator disagrees, “When a man finds any occasion to quit his wife, if he love her, she dies by his hand, if not he sells her, or suffers some other to kill her” (1139-40). Not only is the narrator arguing that death is inevitable, she is also noting that Oroonoko’s killing of Imoinda would be noble, given their dire circumstances. Oroonoko, on the other hand, smiles in the face of death as a form of reluctant acceptance, as he has ultimately lost his motivation to live (Imoinda). Immediately prior to her death, “his grief swelled up to rage,” as one is wont to do subsequent to a loved one’s death, but, ultimately, this subsides, giving way to his reluctant acceptance of his fate. “Still he hoped he should recover vigour to act his design and lay expecting it yet six days longer,” says the narrator, “still mourning over the dead idol of his heart, and striving every day to rise, but could not” (1140). In the ideal universe, one would not have to choose between death or forced servitude, but slavery was not an ideal world; Oroonoko and Imoinda suffered for it, but, maybe, their smiles at the hands of death signifies that they found happiness in an afterlife.

  8. I believe that Oroonoko is correct in thinking that Imoinda would have suffered a worse death or rest of her life had Oroonoko not killed her. She would have just been a final way for Banister to torture Oroonoko even after he was gone. Oroonoko had strong, trustable instincts and would not have killed the “treasure of his soul” (1139) if there was a chance at her future safety without him. Imoinda accepts her fate because her love for Oroonoko stems beyond her worldly life, leading her to trust that her death was indeed an act of love, and smile about it. Oroonoko knows that he has nothing left to lose and thus smiles at his death– showcasing his bravery and fearlessness in the situation. He had already planned to die, and although not able to avenge himself, refuses to give Banister and the others the satisfaction of an extreme, in-pain reaction.

  9. Oroonoko and Imoinda meet their ends with smiles because they know they’re going to escape the pain and torment their lives have become. Though they find some solace in each other, they are exuberant at the idea of the liberation their deaths will bring them and of their souls passing on into their “own country.” But they also have differing reasons to be happy at their deaths. For Imoinda, she’s swept with relief not only that she would die, but that she would die by the hand of someone she loves. Because it was Oroonoko killing her, she didn’t see it of an act of violence, and rather one of mercy, kindly and tenderly releasing her from the misery of her life. Oroonoko, who does not have that same comfort in the slightest at the time of his demise, smiles because of the sheer nobility of his inner character, where even at the last moments he’s polite to the people who are brutalizing him, but also at the knowledge that he will be reunited with his love. He’s happy that it will finally be over, and that he and Imoinda, and possibly even their child, can go on into the next world together without fear of being exposed to the vicious nature of the Englishmen.

  10. Imoinda and Oroonoko both accept their faiths willingly because they would end up being together and escape the confines of slavery. This would free them from the present slavery they had been subjected to. Although they are happy at the idea of death for slightly different reasons. Imoinda’s main joy and peace of dying stemmed from the fact that she would die by Oroonoko’s hand, someone who she loves. This also is part of Imoinda’s culture in which “if he love her, she dies by his hand” which further speaks to the passion of that the two of them share (1139). For Oroonoko, he realizes that he will be able to reunited with Imoinda without having to be subjected to the evils of the white Englishman.

  11. I wouldn’t go so far as to compare it to Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet because the context of which they died was of their own doing. They died because they couldn’t be apart. Oroonoko and Imoinda chose death because they wanted to be free from slavery and after the revolt there was already plans to kill them anyway ( well specifically Oroonoko). I think they were smiling at their fate because they rather be free in death then to live in slavery and be treated worst than the animals they use to do their daily tasks when they were once royalty and had not suffered this fate of slavery because of any kind of war. I think his fears were accurate because on page 1142 Banister says, “He should die like a dog he was”. Oroonoko said they would come to kill him and they did. I also wouldn’t put it past the type of cruel and barbaric person Banister and his comrades were to also place harm on his wife if she were not already dead.

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