Aphra Behn's Oroonoko and the Price of Societal Advancement College

In Oroonoko, Aphra Behn presents two very distinct civilizations: Coramantien, an African country ruled by royalty, and Surinam, an English colony in South America that is home to colonists and natives alike. However, Behn’s depictions of these two regions are products of her own Western background, which adds a third domain to the novel: seventeenth century England, or Europe as a whole. These three “worlds” stand in stark contrast with one another; while Behn’s Europe is the most advanced civilization, with laws, religion, technology, and social order, Coramantien and Surinam are lesser and lesser versions of European society. Surinam is everything Europe is not – the people are simple-minded, and the only semblance of structure in existence was set up by the colonists. Coramantien, on the other hand, falls somewhere in the middle; its royal governance is certainly reminiscent of countries like England, but the presence of practices such as polygamy and the lack of established laws suggest it is far from being equal to Western countries. While Behn certainly sees Europe as the best of the three civilizations, this superiority comes at a cost – morality; for Behn, the more advanced the society, the more corrupt the people....

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