Aphra Behn depicts Imoinda, the object of the prince’s love in Oroonoko, Or The Royal Slave (1688), as exotic in her person, potent in her sexuality, but highly conventional in her domestic aspirations. While she has only limited ownership of her body, she operates within the limits of her status to secure the love of Prince Oroonoko, and then to defend their union, even at great risk to herself, and ultimately at the cost of her life. In so doing, she enacts an evolving ideal of the conjugal household, whose origin in literature Nancy Armstrong and Leonard Tennenhouse associate with Milton’s Paradise Lost (1667) and whose effects on fiction Ruth Perry chronicles in Novel Relations. The story of Prince Oroonoko and Imoinda is related by the figure of the narrator, who, in her own relationship with Prince Oroonoko, serves to complement the bond between Imoinda and her prince, in the context of an ideal bourgeois household, by compensating for Imoinda’s illiteracy.
There is much in Oroonoko that was new, including its narrative form, but no aspect of it was more so than its virtually unique representation of an African woman, in the character of Imoinda. Behn’s physical characterization ensures that we understand her as African, not simply as a black-skinned simulacrum of a white European woman. Whereas Oroonoko is described as having a physiognomy more like that of a Greek statue than that of other African men from Coramantien, Imoinda is described as having “extraordinary prettiness,” but one that is distinctly in the mode of other African women. Indeed, the full measure of her African exoticism is conveyed through her body, which is shown scarified (as if “japanned”) “in fine flowers and birds all over her body (Norton, 2208).” In contrast, Prince Oroonoko is so adorned only on the sides of his temple.
The explanation of this discrepancy likely resides,... [continues]
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(2010, 10). Imoinda's Modernity: Aphra Behn's Enactment of Conjugal Marriage in Oroonoko, or the Royal Slave. StudyMode.com. Retrieved 10, 2010, from http://www.studymode.com/essays/Imoinda-s-Modernity-Aphra-Behn-s-Enactment-Of-453312.html
"Imoinda's Modernity: Aphra Behn's Enactment of Conjugal Marriage in Oroonoko, or the Royal Slave" StudyMode.com. 10 2010. 10 2010 <http://www.studymode.com/essays/Imoinda-s-Modernity-Aphra-Behn-s-Enactment-Of-453312.html>.
"Imoinda's Modernity: Aphra Behn's Enactment of Conjugal Marriage in Oroonoko, or the Royal Slave." StudyMode.com. 10, 2010. Accessed 10, 2010. http://www.studymode.com/essays/Imoinda-s-Modernity-Aphra-Behn-s-Enactment-Of-453312.html.