Walking the Line in "Oroonoko": The Struggle Between Power and Morality College

Humans have wrestled with power and morality throughout time, recognizing that the issue is much more elaborate than simply deciding good from evil. Aphra Behn’s narrative Oroonoko: the Royal Slave focuses on the relationship between those in power and those in submission, allowing the reader to decipher what motivates the Europeans to continue the cycle of slavery, no matter how horrific the institution. Because of Oroonoko’s contradictory status as a royal slave, a morally ambiguous conflict arises between the oppressor and the oppressed. The complex social hierarchy implemented by the Europeans creates tension throughout Oroonoko, bringing a focus to the internal struggles of balancing power and morality— especially in the lives of Trefry and Aphra Behn.

From the onset of the narrative, Trefry walks a thin line between respecting and oppressing Oroonoko. Upon meeting Oroonoko, Trefry quickly notices his intelligence, befriending Oroonoko and “loving him as his dearest brother and showing him all the civilities due so a great man” (2157). Trefry looks past Oroonoko’s difference in skin color and focuses on the content of his character, and by doing so, Trefry soon learns of Oroonoko’s many plights. By putting his dominance...

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