Oroonoko Section One Summary & Analysis

Aphra Behn


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Oroonoko Section One Summary & Analysis

Section One Summary: Narrator’s Introduction

The novella begins with the narrator’s assurance that what follows is the truth, rather than fiction; she will make no attempt to invent or embellish Oroonoko’s story. She explains that she was an eyewitness to the events in Surinam and heard of everything else from Oroonoko himself. The only changes that have been made to the tale are the omission of certain details that might bore the reader.

Surinam, the narrator explains, is a colony in the Americas where slaves are bought and sold in lots. The English settlers live harmoniously with the indigenous people.

The narrator gives a detailed description of Surinam’s native wildlife, the way the native people dress and the objects they make. She tells us that the native people are “like our first Parents before the Fall” (6); they are simple and without curiosity.These people are also very innocent, according to the narrator, they, “understand no Vice or Cunning, but when they are taught by the White Men” (7). The native men have many wives but no servants except for slaves they have captured in war. Their society is not led by a king but by the oldest war captain.

The narrator explains that it is to English settlers’ advantage to live “in perfect Tranquility” (7) with the natives, because, not only are their hunting and fishing skills and their knowledge of the area an advantage to the English, the natives also outnumber them so they don’t dare treat them badly. This is one of the main reasons that the native people aren’t enslaved; instead, black slaves are imported to work on the sugar plantations. 

Section One Analysis:

The opening pages introduce the reader to the English colony of Surinam in what is now South America. The narrator provides descriptions of the wildlife as well as the native people and gives us insight into the relations between the English colonizers and the indigenous people. In part, these details support the narrator’s claim that everything in the story is true—how could she provide such detailed descriptions if she hadn’t been there? This claim to truth might, in…

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