The Cosmopolitan Universalism of Aphra Behn’s Oroonoko
Published in humani.philica.com
<>"They are extream modest and bashful, very shy, and nice of being touch’d. And though they are all thus naked, if one lives for ever among ‘em, there is not to be seen an indecent Action, or Glance; and beingcontinually us’d to see one another so unadorn’d, so like our first Parents before the Fall." (39)5
<><>The narrator praises the unconstrained actions of the Amerindians, especially as they walk around unclothed without lasciviously lusting after one another: “there is not to be seen an indecent Action, or Glance.” The Amerindians respect each other and live in a state similar to Adam and Eve before their expulsion from the garden. In this depiction, the author suggests that the Amerindians live in a prelapsarian condition in which petty interests and actions fail to intrude.6 She draws attention to this ideal through equating their everyday existence to an Edenic state of nature:
<><>"[T]hese People represented to me an absolute Idea of the first State of Innocence, before Man knew how to sin. And ‘tis most evident and plain, that simple Nature is the most harmless, inoffensive and virtuous Mistress. ‘Tis she alone, if she were permitted, that better instructs the World, than all the Inventions of Man." (40)
<><><><>"When they saw he was not dead, they ask’d him, what Name they had for a Man who promis’d a thing he did not do? The Governor told them, Such as man was a Lyar … Then one of them reply’d, Governor, you are a Lyar, and guilty of that Infamy." (40)
<><><><><>Based upon nature’s instructions, the Amerindians believe the Governor’s word absolutely, and when he fails to appear, they accuse him of a gross injustice (Oroonoko’s conversation with the Captain will mirror this incident). Behn stresses that their moral practices emanate from nature, which all humans can access, and corruptions occur when people refuse to follow the dictates inherent within that state of nature: “They have a Native Justice, which knows no Fraud; and they understand no vice, or Cunning, but when they are taught by White Men” (40). For Behn, the Caribs live in a state of natural innocence and uprightness, and their destructive habits spring from the negative and socializing influences of Europeans, “White Men.”
<><><><><><>Nation-ness, Systems Theory, Self-referentiality, and Reciprocity
<><><><><><><>Benedict Anderson’s defines nation-ness in Imagined Communities as “an imagined political community” which is inherently “limited and sovereign.”10 Further, he uses “imagined” because the citizens of even a small nation will never know or meet their fellow-members, “yet in the minds of each lives the image of their communion.” People imagine that they are connected to people whom they will never see. Further, it is “limited” because even the largest nation maintains a finite, if elastic boundary. Finally, it is a “community” because, though inequality and exploitation of members occur, the nation still sees itself as a “deep, horizontal comradeship.” Everyone within a particular group perceives herself as existing within a community that shares a general, loose connection. This occurs not only within the nation but between those who believe that they share similar religious and cultural values—in this case, Christendom.11 These binding notions that create an imagined cultural community, Christendom, in Behn’s Oroonoko, take the form of heroic, aristocratic ideals embodied within Oroonoko and the idealized Christian virtues within the audience.12 Both of these values bind the Europeans within the text as well as the European readers.
<><><><><><><><>"With these People, as I said, we live in perfect Tranquility, and good Understanding, as it behooves us to do; they knowing all the places where to seek the best Food of the country, and the Means of getting it; and for very small unvaluable Trifles, supply us with what ‘tis impossible for us to get." (41)
<><><><><><><><><>The Amerindians have a native sensibility or an intimate understanding of the local environment, whereas the Europeans do not. Actually, the Europeans are dependent upon the Amerindians’ knowledge. The narrator admires the Caribs’ specialized abilities in their native habitat:
<><><><><><><><><><>"in the water, one wou’d think they were Gods of the Rivers, or Fellow-Citizens of the Deep; so rare an Art they have in Swimming, Diving, and almost Living in Water; by which they command the less swift Inhabitants of the Floods. And then for Shooting; what they cannot take, or reach with their Hands, they do with Arrows." (41)
<><><><><><><><><><><>The narrator respects the inhabitants because of their advanced abilities within the indigenous, natural environment—an ability that the Europeans have yet to master. Indeed the Amerindians prove more adept than the foreign Europeans.22
<><><><><><><><><><><>"’twas amazing to imagine where it was he learn’d so much Humanity; or, to give his Accomplishments a juster Name, where ‘twas he got that real Greatness of Soul, those refin’d Notions of true Honour, that absolute Generosity, and the Softness that was capable of the highest Passions of Love and Gallantry, whose Objects were almost continually fighting Men." (42)
<><><><><><><><><><><>Part of his celebrated and exalted traits stem from “the Care of a French-Man of Wit and Learning; who finding it turn to very good Account to be a sort of Royal Tutor to his young, Black, & perceiving him very ready, apt, and quick of Apprehension, took a great pleasure to teach him Morals, Language and Science; and was for it extreamly belov’d and valu’d by him” (42-43). A European instills the admired values within Oroonoko, and the values themselves are traditionally Western, which, in turn, endorse the foreigner’s personality and behavior for the readers, providing them with a means to accept the foreigner’s character.23 These traits are enough to validate Oroonoko to the narrator and, by extension, to the European public who read the text:
<><><><><><><><><><><>"I have often seen and convers’d with this great Man, and been Witness to many of his mighty Actions; and do assure my Reader, the most Illustrious Courts cou’d no have produc’d a braver Man, both for Greatness of Courage and Mind, a Judgment more solid, and a Wit more quick, and a Conversation more sweet and diverting." (43)
<><><><><><><><><><><>The foreigner comports himself in a garb of Western heroic ideals, often in a better manner than many in European courts. It seems that Oroonoko would be at home in Africa or Europe. The foreigner is not only versed in the courtly virtues of Western society, but he performs and applies them in his life much more so than representatives from Europe. Behn advances this perspective more directly within the next paragraph:
<><><><><><><><><><><>"Nor did his Perfections of 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, that all fine Wit is confin’d to the White Men, especially to those of Christendom; and wou’d have confess’d that Oroonoko was as capable even of reigning well" (44).
<><><><><><><><><><><><>The narrator maintains that Oroonoko effectively rules as well or even better than any leader in the Christian world—the implied community of “Christendom”—even though the Prince does not follow the same religion as the Europeans. Behn essentially allows the reader to access the experiences of Oroonoko by having him reflect the idealized traditional virtues of Europeans. That is, the Europeans recognize their cultural values within the foreigner, and they observe that he demonstrates those values as well as any European who ascribes to Christian virtue. She creates Oroonoko as an environment that Europeans can recognize through establishing a boundary that reflects their internal organizing structure, which, in turn, allows Oroonoko to become a means to critique the elements within the internal logic of the European system. The aristocratic virtue of Oroonoko orients the European minds as they seek to interpret and comprehend his actions within the text. In this step, Behn provides a bridge between the external environment and internal system, leaving open the possibility of the external reflecting back upon or becoming intimate with the internal consciousness.
<><><><><><><><><><><><><><>"[t]urn’d all his happy Moments to the best advantage; and as he knew no Vice, his Flame aim’d at nothing but Honour, if such a distinction may be made of Love; and especially in that Country, where Men take to themselves as many as they can maintain; and where they only Crime and Sin with Woman is, to turn her off, to abandon her to Want, Shame and Misery: Such ill Morals are only practis’d in Christian-countries, where they prefer the bare Name of Religion; and, without Vertue or Morality; think that’s sufficient. But Oroonoko was none of those Professors; but as he had right Notions of Honour." (45-46)
<><><><><><><><><><><><><><>Oroonoko and the Critique of the European Consciousness
<><><><><><><><><><><><><><><>This disconnection between idealized Christian virtue and its corrupt application by individuals in society is fore grounded within the English slave-trader.25 The English captain befriends Oroonoko after Imoinda was sold into slavery, and the slave trader convinces the Prince to board his vessel for a feast. While there, “the Captain, who had well laid his Design before, gave the Word, and seiz’d on all his Guests; they clapping great Irons suddenly on the Prince” (63). Oroonoko bemoaning his miserable state, refuses to eat, and the Captain, afraid that he will lose a valuable piece of property decides to deceive him. He wants to assure the Prince that “he was afflicted for having rashly done so unhospitable a Deed” (64). He promises to free Oroonoko and his friends as soon as they hit shore. The Prince replies that he would confirm what the Captain said if the Captain would release his chains, and the African swears on his honor to “behave himself in all friendly Order and Manner, and obey the Command of the Captain” (64).
<><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><>After this exchange, the Captain swears on his Christian God that he will fulfill his promise, while Oroonoko swears on his honor. This distinction in swearing upon one’s word—which mirrors the English Governor’s treatment of the Amerindians earlier in the text—establishes the critique that Behn will levy against the type of misapplied virtue within the English slave trader. The Captain responds that he “could not resolve to trust a Heathen … a Man that had no sence or notion of the God that he Worshipp’d” (64-65). Oroonoko replies, “He was very sorry to hear that the Captain pretended to the Knowledge and Worship of any Gods, who had taught him no better Principles, than not to Credit as he would be Credited” (65). The Prince rebukes the Captain for not relying upon an individual’s honor and word, instead of relying upon promises to an unseen God. However, the Captain persists and maintains that since they have different religions, stemming from different communities, he would find it difficult to accept the African’s words: “For the Captain had protested to him upon the Word of a Christian, and sworn in the Name of a Great God: which if he should violate, he would expect eternal Torment in the World to come” (54). Importantly, the Captain swears on his conception of virtue, and since Oroonoko originates from another religious community, the Captain will not trust the African’s word or his actions because he may regulate himself differently from ideal characteristics required by Christian doctrine. At the same time, the Captain maintains that if he should act against this virtue, then he would act against Christian justice, and the result will be “eternal Torment.” Oroonoko asserts, again, that he will swear upon his “honour.” The Prince then indicates that Christians can deceive one another based upon their notion of justice because “Punishments hereafter are suffer’d by ones self; and the World takes no cognizances whether this God have revenged ‘em, nor not, ‘tis done so secretly, and deferr’d so long; While the Man of no Honour, suffers every moment the scorn and contempt of the honester World” (65). Here the notions of Christian virtue and justice are placed against the notions of justice based upon a more traditional Western heroic virtue, in which honor dominates.26 Behn shows how the notions of virtue in Christians can be misguided, misread, or misinterpreted because of their emphasis upon a veiled form of virtue where individuals determine right action upon a presumed external authority, instead of validating and determining right action, self-reflectively and individually. Oroonoko serves as a vehicle to question the very forms of idealized cultural virtue and justice that Europeans accept without self-reflection. When one swears on God, then one’s word is sacrosanct. However, through the position of the foreigner, Behn seeks to reexamine the internal logic of this connection between making one’s word and attaching this to a specific god.27 Based upon the Prince’s insistent arguments, the Captain relents and decides to free only Oroonoko; he visits the Prince himself and makes many “Assurances of what he had already promis’d” (65).
<><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><>Self-Reflection and Internalization between the Three Cultures
<><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><>Behn demonstrates how different groups respond to this interaction with the foreign, gauging whether they test internal virtues against an external environment. In this step within the self-reflecting process, the Amerindians serve as a touchstone for both groups’ internalization of foreign attributes. First, Oroonoko and the Europeans both interact with the Caribs, but Oroonoko’s response is grounded upon his strong sense of honor, whereas the dishonest Europeans’ response is based upon the internalization of foreign customs in a corrupt manner, which demonstrates their inability to self-regulate their actions. For instance, one day, though they are afraid and unfamiliar with the Amerindians, several of the acquaintances of the narrator decide to visit an “Indian town.” Oroonoko persuades the narrator’s friends to venture forth when he promises to serve as their guard and protector. While in the town, the Amerindians accept them, and, at one point, Oroonoko decides to speak with their “War Captains.” In the Captains’ house, the narrator observes several Amerindians with various types of mutilations: “some wanted their Noses, some their Lips, some both Noses and Lips, some their Ears, and others Cut through each Cheek, with long Slashes … they had several formidable Wounds and Scars, or rather Dismemberings” (83). The warriors’ disfigured bodies fascinate Oroonoko. He marvels at their faces, “wondering how they shou’d all be so Wounded in War” (84). The Amerindians respond that
<><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><>"when any War was waging, two Men chosen … were to stand in Competition for the Generalship, or Great War Captain; and being brought before the old judges … they are ask’d, What they dare do to shew they are worthy to lead an Army? When he, who is first ask’d, making no Reply, Cuts off his Nose, and throws it contemptably on the Ground; and the other does something to himself that he thinks surpasses him, and perhaps deprives himself of Lips and an Eye; so they Slash on till one gives out … And ‘tis by a passive Valour they shew and prove their Activity." (84)
<><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><>The Amerindians practice mutilation as a means to exhibit their worth and valor in battle. Mutilation becomes a physical means to exhibit a spiritual and an internal strength and resolve.
<><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><>The only Europeans who do not fall into the corrupt practices of the local landowners are Trefry and the small aristocratic group surrounding the narrator. Trefry refuses to execute the brutal justice that Byam exacted upon Oroonoko. After hearing the others’ judgment of death for the Prince, “Trefry then thought it time to use his Authority, and told Byam his Command did not extend to his Lord’s Plantation” (94). Trefry even tries to mobilize “others as powerful … that int’rested themselves in Caesar’s [Oroonoko’s] Life, and absolutely said, he shou’d be Defended” (94). Oroonoko himself remarked that “Though … he had little Reason to credit the Words of a Backearary [white person], yet he knew not why; but he saw a kind of Sincerity, and awful Truth in the Face of Trefry” (68). Trefry seems to be one of the only Europeans in the colony who practices a proper form of self-regulation in which he examines the foreign and internalizes the virtues of the foreign, without misapplying these based upon corrupted notions of virtue. He makes certain that the internal logic of his sense of virtue squares with the ideal external precepts of Christian virtue. He partakes in a form of self-regulation, squaring the external with the internal; hence, he has a better chance to thrive. As Behn notes, many of the other corrupt leaders of the colony “who consisted of such notorious Villains as Newgate never transported … were Hang’d, when the Dutch took possession of the place: others sent off in Chains” (93). Because of their inability to reflect upon their internally corrupted sense of virtue, Byam and others ultimately cannot evolve and flourish.
<><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><>Trefry, on the other hand, is sympathetic to Oroonoko and promises to help the former Prince to the best of his ability: “[B]efore they had finish’d their Voyage up River, he made no scruple of declaring to Trefry all his Fortunes … and put himself wholly into the Hands of his new Friend” (67). After Oroonoko tells Trefry about his betrayal by the English Captain, Trefry “promis’d him on his Word and Honour, he wou’d find the Means to reconduct him to his own Country again; assuring him, he had a perfect Abhorrence of so dishonourable an Action; and that he wou’d sooner have dy’d, than have been the Author of such a Perfidy” (68). Trefry assists Oroonoko because he practices self-regulation. He perceives that unjust actions are done to just individuals, regardless of their religious community, and he insists upon implementing his self-regulated notions of virtue by defending Oroonoko to the best of his ability and refusing to let Byam onto his plantation. Trefry does not experience the same demise within the novel as the Byam group; hence, he emerges more unscathed. Contemporary readers may become frustrated, however, with Trefry’s complicity in the slave trade and his inability to act. For example, Srinivas Aravamudan calls him the “bumbling Cornishman Trefry.”33 Many would censure Trefry because he says he will assist Oroonoko only after he speaks to the absent Governor Willoughby. In addition, he fails to assist Oroonoko in his direst time of need because he is conveniently and conspicuously absent during Oroonoko’s dismemberment. The narrator herself maintains fears about Oroonoko as her group sends attendants who are actually spies to monitor his behavior. Hoping to avoid rabble-rousing, her group obliged “him to remain within such a compass, and that he shou’d be permitted, as seldom as cou’d be, to go up to the Plantation of the Negroes” (75). As much as the narrator or Trefry may seem an unfortunate actor to modern readers, they reflect the admired, aristocratic virtues that Behn upholds within the text. Hence, we should see him as an effective practitioner of Behn’s ideals.34
With self-reference, it is important to determine, precisely, one’s relation to the generalized virtue within the local and global communities to make certain that the virtue is not corrupted when incorporating the foreign and making it a part of the internal structure of the system. This process underlines the importance of systems that effectively practice self-reflectivity and participate in reciprocity. Byam and his group fail to practice this self-regulated form of internalization; hence, he and his group fail to evolve, whereas the reader and the narrator herself, who will become the Aphra Behn writing Oroonoko, have internalized their experiences of the foreign in a self-regulated manner. Through this exhibition of reciprocity and self-regulation, Behn shows us how traits can be universalizable to all cultures, making each culture and representative of that culture a “citizen of the world,” —or a cosmopolitan—rather than assigning individuals and foreign cultures to separate spheres of interaction with separate moral systems. Because everyone, regardless of community, can reflect those universalizable, aristocratic, and Christian virtues, then Behn can use other cultures to critique the corrupt practices in European society and establish a moral vision that encompasses a global community, a cosmopolitan universalism.
1. R. Kroll (2005). ‘Tales of love and gallantry’: the politics of Oroonoko. Huntington Library Quarterly, 67.4, 573-605.
2. D. Hughes (2002). Race, gender, and scholarly practice: Aphra Behn’s Oroonoko. Essays in Criticism, 52.1, 1-22. Hughes points to shortcomings in scholarship of the last decade on Oroonoko which explores race and gender. He stresses that in many of these readings, “[m]odishness creates a carnival licence, suspending the rules of evidence and even of good scholarly practice” (3). He adds that “[i]nterpreters of Oroonoko have concentrated so much on race as a justification of slavery that they have ignored religion” (p. 17). In this essay, I seek to explore the implications of religion and the interaction of cultures in Oroonoko to detail how Behn’s moral vision enfolds the world. The following essays touch upon the destabilizing effects of Behn’s work: L. Brown (1999). The romance of empire: Oroonoko and the trade in slaves. In J. Todd (Ed.), Aphra Behn (p. 180). New York: St. Martin’s; M. Ferguson (1992). Oroonoko: birth of a paradigm. NLH, 23, 349; C. Sussman (1993). The other problem with women: reproduction and slave culture in Aphra Behn’s Oroonoko. In H. Hunter (Ed.), Rereading Aphra Behn: History, Theory, and Criticism. (p. 212). Charlottesville, Va.: University Press of Virginia; M. Ferguson (1999). Juggling the categories of race, class and gender: Aphra Behn’s Oroonoko. In J. Todd (Ed.), Aphra Behn. (p. 209). New York: St. Martin’s; A. Rivero (2001). Aphra Behn’s Oroonoko: cultural dialectics and the novel. ELH, 68, 57-79.
3. M. Nussbaum (1996). For the Love of Country: Debating the Limits of Patriotism. J. Cohen (Ed.). (p. 4). Boston: Beacon Press.
<>4. The notion of Christendom served as a secular and spiritual unifying ideal in the Middle Ages to bind all Christians within a like-minded community. St. Augustine outlines this ideal in his City of God (413-27).
<>5. All quotations from Oroonoko are taken from the Bedford Cultural Edition, (2000), C. Gallagher (Ed.), (p. 35). Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s.
<>6. This notion of the “noble savage” was not original to Behn, though she encouraged it. See S. Muthu’s (2003) Enlightenment Against Empire. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Muthu details the development of this notion of the “noble savage” in his second chapter. He looks at Amerigo Vespucci’s, Montaigne’s, and Baron de Lahontan’s writings.
<>7. Ibid., p. 274. Muthu argues that apart from the natural law influences that assisted Europeans in perceiving foreign peoples in an egalitarian and humanitarian way, Europeans needed to see them as fundamentally cultural beings or cultural agents. An example of the importance of natural law, moral sense, and its grounding in human nature lies in J. Q. Wilson’s (1993) The Moral Sense. New York: Free Press.
<>8. I use “foreign” to indicate the complexity of the Europeans’ experiences of unfamiliar cultures. See Melvin Richter’s (1997), Europe and the other in eighteenth-century thought. Politisches Denken: Jahrbuch.
<>9. T. Schlereth (1977). The Cosmopolitan Ideal in Enlightenment Thought, Its Form and Function in the Ideas of Franklin, Hume, and Voltaire: 1694-1740. Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press. Schlereth examines the outward looking philosophes, Franklin, Hume, and Voltaire, and notes the universal features that they perceived in foreign cultures.
<>10. B. Anderson (1983). Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. (pp. 6-7). London: Verso.
<>11. Ibid., p. 12. See Anderson’s discussion of a consciousness based upon a religious community in Chapter 2.
<>12. Some may argue that Christian virtue fragmented during and after the Reformation, which prevents the different sects of Christianity from agreeing upon similar religious practices, values, and virtues. For that reason, a community of Christianity would be elusive in later seventeenth-century European society. I maintain, however, that the Reformation creates a reevaluation of religious practices within different groups, but the end goal proves ultimately the same: a realization of the Christian Good. Different sects may have different means and paths of arriving at the Christian Good, but the endpoint for all sects is God. For example, in Richard Hakluyt’s Principal Navigations (1598-1600), he refers to “Christendome” in his Dedication to Sir Robert Cecil. Though he saw England in competition with his “Christian neighbors,” Hakluyt acknowledges that they all served the common, understood, and identifying goal of reducing “many Pagans to the faith of Christ.” Further, Hugo Grotius states that Christians are members of one body in (1949) The Law of War and Peace. L. Loomis (Trans.). (p. 173). Roslyn, N.Y.: Walter J. Black. Again, in John Locke’s A Letter Concerning Toleration (1689), he notes that different Christians may pursue different practices; even still, there are aspects of Christianity that all Christians universally recognize: “For whatsoever some people boast of the antiquity of places and names, or of the pomp of their outward worship; others, of the reformation of their discipline; all, of the orthodoxy of their faith—for everyone is orthodox to himself—these things, and all others of this nature, are much rather marks of men striving for power and empire over one another than of the Church of Christ.” Daniel Defoe makes a similar argument in Enquiry into the Occasional Conformity (1698): “Do the Religion of the Church and the Meeting-houses make two Religions? Wherein do they differ? The Substance of the same Religion is common to them both; and the Modes and Accidents are the things in which only they differ.”
<>13. A reference to Behn’s Catholic sympathies was excised from an earlier edition of Oroonoko but appeared in the Three Histories (July 1688) which is found in the Bodleian Library. The fact that portions were excised points not only to an attempt to avoid negative political consequences, but it reinforces the case that Behn sought to minimize the particular differences in Christian sects to emphasis the universal similarities, especially at a time of political unrest.
<><>14. See St. Augustine’s City of God (413-27).
<><>14. G. Guffey and A. Wright (1975). Two English Novelists: Aphra Behn and Anthony Trollope. Los Angeles: William Andrews Clark Memorial Library. Guffey first connects the notions of honor and aristocracy with historical conditions of the Stuart reign in Oroonoko. He argues that “Behn makes a strong argument for the absolute power of legitimate kings, and that, through a series of parallels between James and the mistreated royal slave Oroonoko, she attempts to gain the sympathy of her reader for James” (pp. 16-17). See also A. Pacheco’s (1994), Royalism and honor in Aphra Behn’s Oroonoko. SEL, 34, 491-506. R. Kroll (2005) touches on these traits as well in ‘Tales of love and gallantry’: the politics of Oroonoko. 573-605.
<><>16. D. Hoegberg (1995). Caesar’s toils: allusion and rebellion in Oroonoko. Eighteenth Century Fiction, 7, 239-58. Hoegberg argues that the naming of Oroonoko as Caesar and likening him to Achilles ennobles and confines him, making him act in others’ scripts.
<><>17. This was especially acknowledged in the Middle Ages. See D. Held's (1995) Democracy and the Global Order: From the Modern State to Cosmopolitan Governance. Stanford, Cal.: Stanford University Press. Held maintains that medieval Europe was characterized as the order of ‘international Christian society.’ This international Christian society was conceived as being Christian first and foremost; “it looked to God for the authority to resolve disputes and conflicts; its primary political reference point was religious doctrine; and it was overlaid with assumptions about the universal nature of human community” (p. 34).
<><>18. N. Luhmann (1995). Social Systems. John Bednarz, Jr. with Dirk Baecker (Trans.). (p. 34). Stanford, Cal: Stanford University Press.
<><>19. N. Luhmann (1990). Essays on Self-Reference. (p. 100). New York: Columbia University Press. For Luhmann, “The system evolves by self-reference. … Observing and describing, planning and directing the system presupposes the system, and not only as object but also as subject of its own activities.”
<><>20. Virtue serves as the organizing mechanism within societies that instructs its members upon the proper characteristics they should have to bring order and prosperity. See M. McKeon’s (1987) The Origins of the English Novel, 1600-1740 (p. 131). Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. The different sects prescribed to slightly different methods for practicing Christian virtue, but ultimately all methods and all paths led to the Christian Good. Hence, if someone ascribed to a sect of Christianity then she would still eventually end at the same place as other sects: united with God. The idea that they were following characteristics (no matter how much they varied from one sect to another) that would lead them to the same end still maintains the abstract sense of an imagined community. No matter what sect you subscribed to in Christendom, Christians could identify communally with each other because their varying beliefs still brought them to the same end. Indeed, people not practicing a form of Christian virtue prescribed by a Christian sect were labeled pagans or infidels, existing outside the Christian community designated as Christendom.
<><>21. Similar interpretations of Oroonoko as an internal critique occur in other critics. For example, P. Weston (1984) argues that the noble primitive helped undermine traditional values. He connects Oroonoko with the bourgeois revolution in The noble primitive as bourgeois subject. Literature and History, 10, 59-71.
<><>22. P. Way (1999). The cutting edge of culture: british soldiers encounter native americans in the french and indian war. In M. Dauton and R. Halpern (Eds.), Empire and Others: British Encounters with Indigenous Peoples, 1600-1850. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. Way states that “Indians were more successful at crossing and recrossing the cultural divide, as they adapted European forms to traditional goals, whereas many troops who entered the forest were lost to Old World ways; this latter possibility chilled the regimented and class-conscious heart of the armies” (p. 136).
<><>23. L. Brown (1999) argues similarly that heroic elements “made it particularly useful in the representation of the alien scenes of West Indian slavery” (p. 189) from Aphra Behn. Brown maintains that these elements point to a “failure of Behn’s novella to see beyond the mirror of its own culture” which “raises the question of Behn’s relationship with the African slave” (p. 188). I argue that these elements orient the reader to the African so that then the African stands within a position to critique the home culture.
<><>24. See B. Hill’s (2001) Women Alone: Spinsters in England, 1660-1850. New Haven: Yale University Press. Hill shows how the opportunities for working and middle class, single women were limited. Shame and scorned were loaded upon most women not married.
<><>25. D. Hughes (2002) takes a similar position in Race, gender, and scholarly practice: Aphra Behn’s Oroonoko. Essays in Criticism, 52, 1-22. Hughes states, “the villainous captain justifies his treatment of Oroonoko on the grounds of religion, not race” (p. 17).
<><>26. A. Pacheco (1994), Royalism and honor in Aphra Behn’s Oroonoko. SEL, 34, 492-506. Pacheco observes this opposition between Christianity and honor: “Behn has her hero assert that … a moral principle such as honor is a superior guarantor of moral conduct … [a]nd … Behn’s narrative supports this assertion, for it invests Oroonoko, the representative of honor, with absolute moral authority, while the captain who professes Christianity is guilty of both a flagrant breach of trust” (p. 500). Pacheco thinks that this “privileging honor over Christianity strongly suggests that there are tensions at work in its upper class discourse” (p. 501). Like Pacheco, I see this as a nod to Behn’s Tory-leaning interests, but I think the emphasis upon class does not account, still, for the possibility of cross-cultural influence, a reciprocity. The Captain does not partake in self-regulation and Oroonoko does.
<><>27. In the terms of M. McKeon, we see that Behn uses the foreigner to represent the aristocratic ideology that questions the burgeoning progressive ideology inherent within the new emphasis upon individual action. Behn observes the problems of relying upon the word of an individual, which rests upon an unseen God, which is validated inside the individual’s mind, versus the word of a man of honor, which is validated externally through the community imposing shame and ridicule. For a definition of McKeon’s (1987) concepts, see his Introduction in The Origins of the English Novel, 1600-1740.
<><>28. Gallagher (1996) Oroonoko’s blackness. In J. Todd (Ed.), Aphra Behn Studies. (pp. 252-253). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
<><>29. G. A. Starr (1990). Aphra Behn and the genealogy of the man of feeling. Modern Philology, 87, 362-72. Starr supports this assertion in stating that “[i]n his martial and sexual prowess, his magnanimity and pride, and his sententiousness bordering on rant, Behn’s African prince takes after his heroic forebears. … But Oroonoko is also extremely vulnerable, and the oxymoron of the book’s subtitle, The Royal Slave, alerts us to a story of power reduced to impotence, of majesty stripped of dominion” (p. 363).
<><>30. P. Way discusses a similar incident where a British soldier sees Indians cut off the genitals of one of their prisoners, Empire and Others: British Encounters with Indigenous Peoples, 1600-1850, p. 132. Peter Way also discusses another Indian practice of mutilation—scalping. It also serves as a means to exhibit the reciprocity between the home and foreign cultures. Scalping itself was an Indian practice – not introduced by Europeans – which was “meant to restore spiritual harmony” (p. 131). However, scalping took on completely new roles as the British encouraged the Indians to scalp in battle through providing bounties. In doing this, the British “commodified” life, making it less spiritual (p. 133). Both cultures influenced one another: changing the nature of ritual based upon spirituality for the Indians and changing the conceptions that Europeans had of the Indians, as “bloodthirsty,” as well as their encouraging the behavior.
<><>31. K. Rogers (1988). Fact and fiction in Aphra Behn’s Oroonoko. Studies in the Novel, 20.1, 1-15. Rogers states that the mutilation and execution of Oroonoko are connected to actual events. Though the execution connects to actual practices in the colonies, similar to Rogers, I argue that Behn uses the parallel mutilations to expose the Christian hypocrisy within the plantation owners and points to Behn’s own wider moral vision.
<><>32. Several critics discuss the commodification of Oroonoko by the colonists. See S. Aravamudan’s (1999) chapter on Oroonoko in Tropicopolitans: Colonialism and Agency, 1688-1804. (p. 38). Durham: Duke University Press; M. Ferguson (1992) discusses it briefly in Oroonoko: birth of paradigm. New Literary History, 23, 339-59; and S. B. Iwanisziw (1998) touches on it in Behn’s novel investment in Oroonoko: kingship, slavery, and tobacco in english colonialism. Atlantic Review, 63, 75-98.
<><>33. Aravamudan, Tropicopolitans: Colonialism and Agency, 1688-1804, p. 43.
<><>34. R. Frohock (1996). Violence and awe: the foundations of government in Aphra Behn’s new world settings. Eighteenth Century Fiction, 8, 437-52. Frohock notices that “[t]hroughout the novel the only group that does not commit overt atrocities is the aristocratic white faction with which Behn identifies herself.” Frohock maintains that the upper-class colonists seek to “distance themselves from the violence of the slave trade and English Imperialism” (p. 447). I agree that Behn may have sought to validate Trefry and the narrator’s coterie through their resistance to accepting Oroonoko’s body, but I disagree that they do this to distance themselves from slave trade and English imperialism. I think Behn’s willingness to support England’s imperialism provides enough evidence against this contention.
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