Aphra Behn presents a vivid description of Oroonoko’s dismemberment under the colonial rule. The most defining moment comes when Oroonoko has the final conversation with his executioners. He turns to his killers and blesses them before going ahead with their intention of dismemberment. They plan to tie him before going ahead with their mission; however, he tells them not worry about. He tells them of his readiness to stand as a ‘rock’ as they execute him (Behn 72). After this, the executioner comes and starts by cutting off his members and throwing them into the fire, before cutting his ears and nose and throwing them into the fire. Death of Oroonoko is Christlike in many ways, mirroring Crucifixion.
Oroonoko is a Christlike figure because he blesses those who have come to kill him. As shown in the previous paragraph, the executioners tell him of their intentions to whip and kill him; however, he reacts casually by saying ‘A blessing on thee’ (Behn 72). The executioners have come to prepare him for a very painful death, something that would have led to a certain degree of resistance. On the same note, Jesus Christ makes a plea to God for the forgiveness of those who accuse Him falsely, persecute and later kill Him. Jesus asks God to forgive them ‘for they know not what they do’ (King James Bible, Luke 23:34).
Willingness to die is another point that makes Oroonoko’s death looks like that of Jesus Christ. When the executioners try to tie him, he willingly tells them not to worry; that he would stand like a rock during the painful ordeal. He refuses to initiate a struggle towards saving himself or setting himself free. In Luke 23:37, soldiers taunt Jesus to save Himself from the impending Crucifixion. However, Jesus willingly gives himself to be crucified without initiating resistance. The term ‘rock’ is also significant because Oroonoko pledges to stand as a rock during his dismemberment. At the same time, Jesus is crucified and dies, and then buried in the tomb. A rock is used to close the door is rolled away when the disciples makes a visit in the morning.
Oroonoko accepts to die for the ‘sins’ of the local community members, a resemblance to Jesus death for the sins of the sinful world. According to Aphra Behn, is leader who dies for fellow slaves. He decides to suffer and die on behalf of the indigenous community members. The local community identify Oroonoko as their ‘king’ (Behn 73). In the bible, Jesus is also referred to as the ‘King of kings’, according to Luke 23:3. According to the story, the Indian population have been colonized by the British rulers. The local community live as slaves under the authoritarian rule of the British governor. In an environment where the local Indians have to survive as slaves, having no rights of self rule, Oroonoko comes out as the king who represents hope.
According to the narrator, Oroonoko is a warrior who represents hope and victory for the people he represents. The same imagery is seen in the life of Jesus who comes out as the warrior of the oppressed. The Roman authorities and the Pharisee allow Jesus to be crucified and killed because He claims to the King of Jews. On the same note, Oroonoko represents the oppressed local Indian slaves who have to labor under the British rule (Parker 23). However, it is important to understand the narrators view on how Indians became warriors. The narrator notes that Indians fought each other in order to find out those who could lead them during battles. In most cases, people would complete with each other in terms of extreme self-harm. The people who outshone the other when it comes to inflicting self-harm could be the warrior to lead the war. The same case is witnessed when Oroonoko decides to conduct self dismemberment the executioners come. With this, he proves himself as the leader and warrior to lead the Indian community (Parker 33).
It is ironical that the person to lead the Indian community into war must undergo a form of dismemberment in order to the warrior. This seems to be a form of weakening the leader through a painful process. This seems to be an opposite to the expected, especially when the leader is expected to be strong in order to defend the people. On the same note, Oroonoko comes out as a savior of the people; however, it is different from what Jesus Christ does to the people. Jesus dies to save people from their sins, setting them free from its power. Oroonoko dies his Indian slaves but slavery persists even after the death. He seems to be the savior who dies but his death do not help achieve the freedom for the people. The parallels between deaths of Oroonoko and Jesus Christ are obvious, also drawing some resemblances.
Behn, Aphra. “Oroonoko.” Oroonoko and Other Writings. Ed. Frank Ellis. New York: Oxford
University Press, 1994. 3-73. Print.
Parker, Matthew. Willoughbyland: England’s lost colony. London: Hutchinson, 2015.
The Bible: King James Version. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997.