Virtue in Oronooko

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Treachery and Virtue in “Oroonoko or The Royal Slave” Treachery and Virtue are two things that often times do not go together. They in fact contradict one another completely. However, in Oroonoko these two themes play a very important role in the development of the story as a whole. They are the basis for this paper and they teach the reader that if a man’s word is not his bond and he allows himself to be consumed with only self gratification, then that man will abandon his virtues and often become a treacherous person. Because this novel was written during a period in history that dealt with the injustices of slavery, this paper will take on the aspect of a sociological criticism. Truly, the actions of the characters contained within the novel can be tied to the culture of the period and thus create the complexes witnessed therein. There are many critics who would disagree about the theme of this novel. There are those who believe it speaks only about the ills of slavery and would certainly not be agreement that this novel deals with the issues of treachery and virtue. Yet there is much that can be said about each of these themes throughout the story. Oronooko is a prince from the country of Coramantien. Although he was not directly in line to become king of this country, all of the king’s sons had died and Oronooko was the offspring of one of the king’s sons. His plight begins when at seventeen his life is saved by the general who had trained him in the art of war. So distraught was Oroonoko about the death of this general, that he went himself to relay the news to the general’s daughter, Imoinda, and then fell in love with her. He wanted badly that she become his wife, and while it took some persuasion on his part to gain her hand she finally conceded to his will, “after a thousand assurances of his lasting flame and her eternal empire over him, she
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