Color Is Just Skin Deep Analysis

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Color is Just Skin Deep: Behn, Prejudice, and Contradicting Views of Monarchy
Aphra Behn’s royalist sympathies are historically known, so it is to no surprise that the royal titular protagonist of her work, Oroonoko, is a tragic figure meant to evoke sympathy. However, a contradiction seems to emerge with the portrayal of Oroonoko’s grandfather and the current reigning monarch. Oroonoko is, as expected, portrayed in a manner that invokes pity for his plight, but his grandfather is cast as an incompetent antagonist during the first part of the work. Behn 's contradicting representations of royalty can for the most part be explained as a matter of race, with the old king as the embodiment of the 'uncivilized ' African society and Oroonoko as
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In this land that is both physically and culturally distant from what Behn’s audience would be accustomed to, it is the custom for “Men take to themselves as many [women] as they can maintain,” be they wives, concubines, or merely a means to the end of satiating physical desires (Behn 15). Yet out of all the Coramantien men that are encountered, it is only the old king that maintains an harem. It is only he, out of all the others, who “had many Black-Wives,” but the quantity of lovers is by no means a testament to his prowess as a man or leader (Behn 9). He is “feeble” and “old,” and only able to obtain Imoinda through use of coercion (Behn 18). While it was love that bound Imoinda and Oroonoko, it is the threat of death that keeps Imoinda with the old king for “‘tis Death to disobey…. A most impious Disobedience” to refuse (Behn 16). Because of this custom and the royal power the king wields, he becomes a threat to Oroonoko’s happiness and the man becomes characterized by that tradition where it eclipses any other traits he may have. The Coramantien tradition of polygamy further emphasizes how un-Christian these people are, and the antagonistic nature that the custom and king is in relation to protagonist only serves …show more content…
There is the issue of sexuality and manhood that plagues them both-- the old king is impotent, and Oroonoko is castrated at his death. However, the tone and mood of each scene reflects upon both the character and the audience’s perception of them, further juxtaposing the two. The grandfather’s impotence is the subject of mocking humor, yet the tone is more gentle. He can only “but innocently play” with Imoinda who he has sequestered away from his grandson; his inability to procreate leaves only a sense of relief (Behn 16). Oroonoko, on the other hand, has his ability to procreate forcibly taken from him with the most violent means possible, “cut off” and then thrown “into the Fire” to burn to ash (Behn 64). It is not old age that renders Oroonoko sterile at this point, softly stealing away that aspect of him with time, but instead a bloody rendering of force. Behn’s words are short and sparse, but one can only imagine the humiliation and pain that Oroonoko went through during his execution. But the trial that Oroonoko goes through as a result of his castration serves to only elevate him, extol him for the agony he suffers, as if for every unit of pain he also earns a correlating amount of respect. He is a warrior, even in slavery, and endures up to his last breath everything with his chin

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