Gender and Power Dyanics in ; ‘Oroonoko’ by Aphra Behn and ‘the Rape of the Lock’ by Alexander Pope

1621 Words Dec 3rd, 2013 7 Pages
Paper 1; ‘Oroonoko’ by Aphra Behn and ‘The Rape of the Lock’ by Alexander Pope

The relationship between gender and power dynamics is relevant to the understanding of literature through the ages. However, the widespread problematic belief that women are simply the passive, powerless victims of male power is oversimplified and outdated. Power relations, as theorized by Foucault in ‘The History of Sexuality’ are far more complex; the dynamic is ever-changing, from moment to moment and therefore any interpretation of the exchange of power requires a much deeper analysis than what meets the eye. The idea of power determined from and by sexuality can be understood in a comparison of the novel, ‘Oroonoko’ by Aphra Behn with the satiric poem,
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14). Imoinda is immediately set-up as the other, the one that is best understood as a counterpart to Oroonoko. The only way to “truly” describe Imoinda is to understand her as “female to the noble male,” so it is illustrated here that Imoinda cannot be defined without a male. This automatically sets up a sense of subordination that cannot be escaped. Imoinda is presented as an irrelevant character. One might interpret her as simply a means to allow the reader to access the persona of Oroonoko better. However this creates a dilemma for the reader: on the one hand, Imoinda is laconic and does not account for a majority of the book’s content. Equally though, she is the chief reason for the entire plot altogether. The reader is never given the opportunity to understand the depth of Imoinda’s character because Behn never fully develops Imoinda. However Imoinda is not dispensable because her role is central to the plot. Without her, Oroonoko wouldn’t have quarreled with the King, would not have been sent away, would not have been enslaved, and would not have ultimately died.
Ironically, in ‘The Rape of the Lock,’ a satirical critique of 18th century English societal values, Pope focuses most of the attention of his “heroic-comical poem” on its heroine rather than its hero. Overall, the female characters take precedence in terms of voice: Belinda, Thalestris, Clarissa,

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