In Oroonoko by Aphra Behn, the narrator uses the word noble savage when she is describing the natives. According to her descriptions these noble savages are intelligent, innocent and without sin. Even without having clothes on, they were so innocent by nature that they would not look at each other with any malice or evil thoughts. The main character Oroonoko is the most important noble savage of this novel. He is an honorable and courageous man who faces many obstacles without giving up his hope of achieving what he wants. Oroonoko is noble, but also shows his savageness throughout the story.
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Oroonoko portrays part of his nobility when he’s able to forgive others. He has a noble heart and gentle virtues. When he was captured by the captain and after that sold as a slave. Instead of Oroonoko doing something against him he just said, “Farewell, Sir! It is worth my suffering to gain so true a knowledge both of you and of your gods by whom you swear” (Behn, p.41). He tells the captain that he has learned from him and his religion. If he’s able to lie and betray a friendship, what else can Oroonoko imagine from the religion he worships? It’s obvious to imagine that the captain’s religion might be a lie also and that he has a different interpretation of God. Despite all this Oroonoko doesn’t have any feelings of revenge, and basically tells the captain that now he is good to know his true colors. Another example of forgiveness is when Oroonoko battled against Jamoan, who was the leader of the opposition. Jamoan lost the battle and was captured, but Oroonoko did not sell him into slavery like the others he captured. Oroonoko treated him very well and their relationship became a strong one. As Behn says, “This Jamoan afterwards became very dear to himâ€¦he retained nothing of the prisoner but the name” (Behn, p.35).
Once Oroonoko gets to the plantations, he gains its noble place. He represents how the slaves can also be noble without being free. The slaves and his owner give him a great welcome. The owner named Trefry admires Oroonoko since the first time they met and become very close friends like brothers. He notices that Oroonoko is way too different from the other slaves and does not deserves to be treated as a slave; Behn says “Trefry soon found he was yet something greater than he confessed” (Behn, p.42). The same similar reaction slaves have with Oroonoko. Most of the Negroes slaves on the plantation were those who he once captured and sold them into slavery. Instead of reacting in a bad way the Negroes see him as a king and scream, “Live, O King! Long live, O king! And kissing his feet, paid him even divine homage” (Behn, p.44). This shows how Oroonoko’s nobility is recognized and valued by other people. The others value and admire his courage, knowledge and skills.
Oroonoko also gains its respect and honor from others by being brave and fighting for what he wants. He is able to show others that he is not scared of anything and that he can survive all the obstacles he faces. When he knows that Imoinda is pregnant, he starts to worry because he doesn’t want his son to be born as a slave. The whites maintain him busy for a while to prevent a revolt, but Oroonoko realizes that the promised freedom is not going to be true. With his amazing courage he delivers a speech to the slaves and obtains the support of them. “They all replied with one accord, No, no, no; Ceasar has spoke like a great captain, like a great king” (Behn, p.62).They followed his plan even if it meant death or punishment.
At the end of the story, Oroonoko experienced a weak moment and shows his savageness by killing his wife Imoinda, and after this cannot achieve his revenge of killing the evil white man. His perfect image of a noble has been disrupted into a savage when he kills Imoinda. He gives up and thinks that’s the only way to solve his problem. On the other hand, he regains his nobility again when was captured and about to get killed. According to Behn, “he replied, smiling, A blessing on thee, and assured them they need not tie him, for he would stand fixed like a rock” (Behn, p.76). He accepts his death with bravery and honor without crying or begging to anyone for help. Oroonoko keeps his pipe until the end of his life like if nothing has happened. He just gave into death rather than fighting it because he had nothing else to lose.
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Behn explains, “After that with an ill-favoured knife, they cut his ears and his nose, and burned them; he still smoked on, as if nothing had touched him. Then they hacked off one of his arms, and still he bore up, and held his pipe.” (Behn, p.76) He just gave into death rather than fighting it because he had nothing else to lose.
In conclusion, Oroonoko is the perfect example of a noble savage. A black man who shows his nobility not only by inheritance, but by his personality and qualities. But no matter how educated and noble he is, he can’t change his color and the place he came from. This fact leads to a weak part of Oroonoko that readers didn’t expect when he kills Imoinda because he didn’t find any other solutions to his problems. After this he’s able to gain his nobility and bravery again by facing death without fear.
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