Oroonoko Summary & Study Guide

Aphra Behn

Oroonoko

  • 28-page comprehensive study guide
  • Features an extended summary and 6 sections of expert analysis
  • Written by a literary scholar with a PhD in English
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Oroonoko Summary & Study Guide

SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides for challenging works of literature.  This 28-page guide for “Oroonoko” by Aphra Behn includes detailed chapter summaries and analysis covering 4 sections, as well as several more in-depth sections of expert-written literary analysis. Featured content includes commentary on major characters, 25 important quotes, essay topics, and key themes like Truth and Honor and Slavery.

Plot Summary

Oroonoko by Aphra Behn is a seventeenth-century novella that tells the story of the eponymous hero, the prince and heir to the throne of the African country of Cormantien. Oroonoko’s story is related to us by a nameless female narrator, the daughter of the Lord Governor of Surinam, an English colony where Oroonoko will find himself a slave.

Oroonoko’s tale is one of an exemplary man who falls in love with an exceptional woman, Imoinda. However, their love is thwarted by Oroonoko’s grandfather, the king, who desires Imoinda for himself. Despite the fact that Oroonoko and Imoinda are married, the King forces her to become part of his Otan, or harem, separating them. Imoinda refuses to submit to his desires, and Oroonoko manages to break into the Otan and consummate his marriage. As punishment, the King pretends to put Imoinda to death, when he has actually sold her into slavery.

Oroonoko is overcome by grief and distracts himself with the friendship of an English sea captain, who ultimately tricks the prince into slavery, taking him to Surinam where he is sold to the plantation where the narrator resides. There, his true identity is discovered—even as he is renamed Caesar—and he is promised his freedom. There, too, he discovers Imoinda, now named Clemene and the reunited loversfinally live as husband and wife.

Soon after Imoinda conceives a child, Oroonoko begins to suspect further treachery on the part of the English and stages a slave uprising, attempting to lead his fellow slaves to freedom. The uprising does not succeed and Oroonoko is betrayed by the Deputy Governor Byam, who promised him his freedom only to mete out a cruel punishment instead.

Burning with a desire for revenge, Oroonoko decides to kill Imoinda and their unborn child, before killing Byam and then himself. Once again, his plan fails and having killed his beloved wife, his strength leaves him. At the end of the novella, he is brutally killed by Byam’s associate.

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Section One