The British Collective Identity By Behn 's Narrative And Its Radical Depiction Of The African Slave

1409 Words Nov 7th, 2014 6 Pages
Emerging in 18th century Britain, philosophical innovation and liberal thought characterised intellectual life. Considering the British collective identity as a gradually changing and evolving concept, Behn’s position appears to recognise the barbarity inherent to this identity and sees the nation as one that favours violence and personal independence over and above genuine tolerance. Behn’s narrative exposes these contradictory forces while complicating the concept of liberty further by explicitly promoting monarchy and opposing democracy. While exploring the text and its radical depiction of the African slave, it becomes evident that the narrator’s attitude to the concept of wider liberty is far from revolutionary.
Oroonoko is read as an abolitionist text, largely because of Behn’s sympathetic depiction of her slave protagonist and his struggle against the injustice of the treatment he receives. The narrator clearly states at the story’s beginning that she is ‘an eye-witness’ (Behn, 2012: 2313), giving the narrative a certain credibility in the mind of the reader. Behn begins with this statement defending the legitimacy of the novella which maximises its weight on the conscience of her readers, as British people: “…and it shall come simply into the world, recommended by its own proper merits and natural intrigues…without the addition of invention” (Behn, 2012: 2313). A significant point in the early stages of the narrative comes when, maybe surprisingly, the narrator…

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