The Significance of the Female Pen in Aphra Behn’s Oroonoko and Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey College

The decision to become a female author in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries was a daunting task in itself, never mind choosing to narrate your work from a female, personal perspective. Such was the case of two famous texts that are read through a female narrative voice, Oroonoko and Northanger Abbey. Aphra Behn’s Oroonoko, tells the story of an African prince who becomes captured and forced into slavery in the British colony of Surinam in the West Indies, while Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey follows the life of her protagonist, Catherine, through her journeys at Bath and Northanger Abbey. While their stories are unique, through a female narrative voice both women are able to situate themselves according to how they would like their readers to view them. The role of Behn and Austen as female narrators is advantageous to both women in that it offers them a certain authority over their respective texts while also eliminating any personal accountability.

Behn demonstrates authority by interrupting the text to interject her own personal opinions, a strategy ultimately meant to control the reader’s perception of her. Behn’s first address to her readers proves this to be true when she makes it clear that Oroonoko is a story “...

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