Oroonoko: Royal or Slave; Bakhtinian Reading of Aphra Behn’s Oroonoko

  • Ma’soome Sehat Master’s of English Literature Yazd University Yazd Iran
  • Alireza Qadiri Hedeshi Dean of English Language and Literature Department Mehryar Institute of Higher Education Yazd, Iran
Keywords: Bakhtinian Reading, Monolithic View, Colonization, Protagonist, Social Hierarchy.


Having had its protagonist in a carnivalistic world, Aphra Behn’s Oroonoko provides a polyphonic atmosphere in which different attitudes toward colonization can be heard. Oroonoko, who used to be the prince of Coramantien, is doomed to live as a slave in Surinam; a British colony. This degradation, beside other elements of Bakhtinian carnivalesque, makes his language a unique one, belonging neither to aristocrats anymore nor to the slaves, but simultaneously representing both. The subtitle of the story, The Royal Slave, can be implied as referring to this paradox. Additionally, his relationship with the slave society lets their different beliefs and ideas be revealed to the reader despite the author’s will. Aphra Behn, the author, intends to impose her monolithic view on the readers. As a Tory proponent of her time, she defends the colonization and tries her best not to stand against. She attempts to portray her protagonist as the one who believes in social hierarchy; what defines a gentleman from the narrator’s viewpoint. On the surface, Aphra Behn and her hero seem to be of the same opinion toward monarchy and accordingly its policies. They both respect it and believe in its need for the society. A Bakhtinian reading, however, can disclose other massages.

Adding to all that, having employed first point of view as the narrator, Behn provides an opportunity for herself to enforce her political attitude to the story. All miscellaneous details of the story are under the control of this monolithic voice. Therefore other characters including the hero can speak only after her permission. Nevertheless, the scope of the novel does not let her be meticulous enough and sporadically, other voices can be heard from different lines of the story. The Bakhtinian reading of this story can bring these hidden voices to the surface.


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Rosenthal, J. Laura. “Oroonoko: reception, ideology, and narrative strategy,” The Cambridge Companion to Aphra Behn. Edit. by Derek Hughes, ‏Janet Todd. Cambridge University Press, 2004. doi.org/10.1017/ccol0521820197.010

How to Cite
Sehat, M., & Hedeshi, A. Q. (2020). Oroonoko: Royal or Slave; Bakhtinian Reading of Aphra Behn’s Oroonoko. IJOHMN (International Journal Online of Humanities), 6(2), 15-37. https://doi.org/10.24113/ijohmn.v6i2.172