The character Oroonoko from the book Oroonoko written by Aphra Behn has always been referred to as a Christ figure due to the similarity between his actions, status, and circumstances surrounding him, and the acts of Christ and the events that occurred during the days of Jesus found in the Bible. First, Oroonoko had a royal background, even though he was taken into slavery. The author has given Oroonoko the title Prince, which is similar to the Biblical term prince of peace used to refer to Christ. From the book, Oroonoko was arrested, tied to a pole, and whipped, reminding us of how Christ was whipped before he was nailed to the cross.
Oroonoko was treated as a slave even though he was a prince. Furthermore, he was in another country different from his own, a country where slavery existed. Jesus Christ, from the Bible, also came down from Heaven, his home, to earth where people were suffering from both physical and spiritual slavery. In addition, the Bible talks of the heavenly kingdom where Christ rules together with his Father. The ways of people from the foreign country were different from Oroonokos people back in Africa, just like Christ found the Earth and its inhabitants distinct from the life in Heaven.
An apparent similarity between Oroonoko and Christ is that both were hanged and died on a tree. Oroonoko was tied to a pole and executed, the same way as Jesus was crucified on the cross and left to die. Oroonokos dismemberment can also be related to piercing of Jesus side by the soldiers after they had hanged him on the cross. Another similarity of Oroonokos prosecution to Christs trial is that Oroonoko did not put up a struggle, but willfully accepted his fate. In a similar manner, Jesus willingly submitted to his crucifixion (King James Bible, Luke 23:37). Oroonoko assures his persecutors that he will stay put and that there is no need to tie him up, showing his acceptance of suffering.
During his execution, Oroonoko blesses the men who tie him up and prepare to kill him. The precise phrase used from the book is; and then he replied, smiling, A blessing on thee (Bhen 72). Oroonokos character resembles that of Christ because by blessing those who were preparing to kill him, he acted like Jesus in the Gospel of St. Luke where Jesus asks God to forgive his prosecutors by saying forgive them, Lord, for they know not what they do (King James Bible, Luke 23:34). Oroonoko, Just like Christ, seems not to be concerned with the suffering at hand, but with the people inflicting pain on him.
Ceaser, as Oroonoko was later known, is the leader of slaves and is referred to as their king (Bhen 73). By referring to Oroonoko as the king of slaves, the author aligns the character of Oroonoko with that of Christ who was referred to as King of the Jews (King James Bible, Luke 23:3). Oroonoko also suffered and died for the sake of his fellow slaves, just like Christ who identified with sinners and eventually died to save them from the bondage of sin. According to the novella, Oroonoko dies a hero to the slaves (Behn 56). Likewise, Christ is a hero to his followers who view him as a person of great courage even in the face of suffering.
Humility and service to others were among the traits Oroonoko had. Oroonoko was from a royal background and yet he became a slave and even fought for the rights of his fellow. Similarly, Christ is the son of God, the ruler of Heaven and Earth, yet He identified with people who were considered lowly or outcasts. In addition, Christ did not commit any sin, and yet he identified with sinners and suffered rebuke from those who were held as righteous. Both Oroonoko and Christ could have acted high and mighty and let people know who they are, but they chose to live like the rest of the people despite their social class.
The death and suffering of Oroonoka did not immediately save the Indian slaves, the same way the Jews remained under the rule of the Roman government after the death of Christ. Oroonokos death was to appease the British who had colonized India, but his followers did not gain freedom. Instead, the death of Oroonoko instilled fear in his followers because he was an example of what will happen to them if they dared to rebel against the colonialists and plantation owners.
Prior to his arrest, Oroonoko was exhausted and had no energy to go after Byam. He did not run away like before, but waited for his persecutors to come and arrest him. Similarly, when the time for Christ to be prosecuted came he did not run away from the soldiers, but prayed to God to give him strength to endure the persecution. Before, Christ would disappear through the crowd when the soldiers came to arrest him. Byams men come to the site where Oroonoko is and start by chopping off his nose, ears and one leg.
The final similarity between Oronooko and Christ is the council that was set up to decide their fate. From the novella, Byams council is comprised of infamous persons of questionable character. The leaders and crowed that jeered at Jesus were during his prosecution were not righteous. They even demanded the release of a notorious prisoner in exchange for Christ. The decision to hang Oroonoko, like the decision to hang Christ, was predetermined and arrived at without a fair trial.
In conclusion, the novella portrays Oroonoko as a strong and brave character with a great love for his followers. The author outlines Christian values in the character of Oroonoka, by giving him traits similar to great people from the Bible. The novella also highlights the worth of humans and actions that undermine human values.
Behn, Aphra. Oroonoko. Oroonoko and Other Writings. Ed. Frank Ellis. New York: Oxford University Press, 1994. 3-73. Print.The Bible: King James Version. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997. NetLibrary. Web. 10 March 2017.
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