Oroonoko Or The Loyal Slave By Aphra Behn: Short Book Review

November 23, 2022

“Oroonko or the loyal slave” is a prose novella by Apra Behn published in 1688. The story includes both real facts and fiction. It’s a tragic love story of two young people against the backdrop of historical events in Africa in the 17th century. Apra Behn’s classic work was an important precursor to modern novels. Various genres, including history, fiction, and nonfiction, are all represented in the text. The story shifts between first- and third-person perspectives as the narrator present herself as an eyewitness to the events. For more details, read our book review for the university.


What else should college students know? Oroonoko was the first book, according to Virginia Woolf. So the first author-novelist writing in the late 17th century was a woman. Any teacher would probably say this fact adds even more intrigue to the story’s background. It is known that Aphra Behn was also a talented poet and served as a spy for Charles II. The author’s personality inspires many people because she was probably the first female writer who could make a living independently thanks to her writing.

Storyline: What You Should Know

The story begins when feelings flare up between the two young people, Oroonoko and Imoinda. Imoinda is a general’s daughter, and Oroonoko – is the king’s grandson. The problem is: The king is also in love with beautiful Imoinda. To know what other concerns were, you might read oroonoko summary and take a more profound look into people’s lives in the 17th century. To kill two birds with one stone, you can also check out the book summary for other novels. Many students are too busy to read them all, but it’s still necessary to have a general idea of the plot. But let’s come back to Oroonoko and Imoinda.

Lovers try to disobey the king’s will. However, their feelings are soon known to others. As punishment, the king decides to sell the young girl into slavery. The same fate was prepared for the king’s grandson. He was enslaved by an evil English slaver captain. In the first pages of the book, the narrator makes a declaration of honesty. She says she saw it all firsthand and relays it exactly as it happened.

Plot Development

The plot develops when lovers meet in the English colony Surinam. But new challenges awaited them in a new place. The beauty of Imoanda caught the attention of the English deputy governor Byam. Oroonoko tries to deal with all the problems by organizing a revolt. Byam betrays the protagonist and does not fulfill the promise.

Enslaved people joining Oroonoko’s revolt end up turning on him and dealing with the bulk of his punishment. The rebellion does not bring the desired result, and Oroonoko is brutally punished. After such a stroke of fate, Oroonoko no longer sees the light at the end of the tunnel. He decides on desperate measures to take revenge.

Main Concepts

What is the main idea of the book? The primary struggle is between the main character, Oroonoko, and his fellow slaves, as well as the ones in control of them. Because Oroonoko kept enslaved people in his own country, this story cannot be classified as a conventional argument against the institution of slavery.

Behn seems to have conflicting views on this concept. Using enslavement to deprive Oroonoko of his authority is portrayed as brutal and an instrument of injustice. However, the author supports it by showing how crucial it is to keep the British Empire strong. By the way, recently, Britain began to face up to its hidden slavery history more and more. It is a positive change.

The literary work also touches upon the problems of human villainy, envy, base feelings, and good and evil. The issue of gender inequality is also partially shown in the novel. The gentle and beautiful Imoanda suffers from the attacks of undesirable admirers. She has to endure her situation because she has no rights to education, work, and even free will. The text permeates the theme of hopelessness. Youth, real feelings, goals, and dreams cannot come true due to terrible external circumstances.

Main And Secondary Characters

The book’s protagonist is Oroonoko, the grandson of an African king. He is portrayed as a brave and honest man. Oroonoko believes in good, is capable of true, sincere feelings, and fights to the end for his ideals.

  • Imoinda – the daughter of the king’s top general, is beloved by the protagonist. She is a tender, kind soul, who supports Oroonoko, and tries her best to be strong.
  • Byam – the English deputy governor – is the embodiment of villainy in the novel. Driven by lust and envy, he does immoral things.
  • Narrator – a witness to the events, a lady who has come to Suriname with her unnamed father.


“Oroonoko or The Loyal Slave” by Aphra Behn is a story of tragic love, betrayal, and enslavement. The author writes in a straightforward, natural, and engaging manner, expertly presenting the environment, culture, and individuals involved. The content of the book is a combination of fiction and reality. This book will suit you if you’re interested in history and love drama. The story touches on plenty of concepts, so you definitely will have what to discuss during the lesson at school or university.

About the Author Kyrie Mattos

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