Loyalty In Aphra Behn's Color Is Just Skin

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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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 …show more content…
Each man represents something different, making his glory or failure not just about him, but also different cultures as a whole. Oroonoko’s grandfather’s participation in polygamy marks him as un-Christian and non-European, an excuse for the negative portrayal of a member of the royal family. Likewise, it is Oroonoko’s affinity for things European that elevates him above his grandfather, making him the more “ideal” African monarch. His monogamy and European-based education make him morally and mentally superior, and physically he is more acceptable, handsome even, than the other Africans on the basis of more European physical traits. These aspects of the characters and the societies they embody are most striking when placed in similar circumstances, as the differences are truly emphasized; the old king only appears as impotent and pathetic while Oroonoko appears all the more awe-worthy in his moment of suffering, all the while highlighting his connection to white society through the simultaneous consumption of European goods. However the binary is not as clean as one would like it to be, and the line is further muddled by the credit given to Oroonoko’s heritage and culture, as well as Oroonoko’s faults even with his European bias. In the end, though, that complication just adds a layer of verisimilitude to the work, a nod toward the complicated

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