Why Oroonoko Was Looked At As A Christ Figure

The work of fiction “Oroonoko” by Aphra Behn was published in 1688. It mainly focuses on the life of the grandson of an African king known as Prince Oroonko. The life of this prince demonstrates quite a number of similarities to the life of Jesus Christ as depicted in the Bible. As a matter of fact, many readers assume that this story is basically a retell of some of the scriptures from the bible, especially the part where Christ was crucified, but through the Surinam native culture. As a result of this theory, many scholars and literary figures have been involved in controversial discussions of this character and his similarities to the life of Christ. In my own opinion, however, I think that the story of crucifixion makes Orronoko similar to Christ in that both are honorable and legitimate princes, who are deprived the chance of having their rightful class in the society, and are thus befallen by fates they did not deserve.

One of the fundamental similarities is that Oroonoko is a legitimate Africa prince sent away to slavery, just as Jesus was sent to a sinful world. As a prince, Oroonoko should have never been enslaved or forced to endure what he did. Jesus Christ should also have not been sent to the sinful world if not for the purpose of saving sinners. Both of these actions were all in an effort to change things in the set destination, just as it is the duty of a prince to lead by example. Just as in the life of Christ, the royalty of Oroonoko was instantly noted by the slaves who began worshiping him (Behn 941). In the life of Christ, not all accepted his royalty; just as is the case with Oroonoko. Only a few believers followed him wholehearted on his journey through Galilee.

Another reason why Oroonoko is viewed as a Christ figure may be related to how upon his arrival to Surinam, the described setting is quite similar to that of the Garden of Eden from the book of Genesis. “It affords all things both for beauty and use; there was an eternal spring, in always the very months of April, May and June; the shades are everlasting, the trees beating at once all degrees for leaves and fruit, from blooming buds to ripe autumn; groves of oranges, lemons, citrons, figs, nutmegs, and noble aromatics, constantly bearing their fragrances.” (Behn 1129) This depiction of this place as good and holy supports the idea that the tale by Behn may be a reconstruction of the Bible.

The dismemberment of Oroonoko carries with it great similarities to the crucifixion of Christ, despite the fact that he was not actually nailed on a cross. First, the events preceding his dismemberment and the crucifixion of Christ are quite similar. “‘A blessing on thee’, and assured them, they need not tie him, for he would stand fixed like a rock…and the executioner came, and first cut off his members, and threw them into the fire; after that, with an ill-favoured knife, they cut his ears, his nose, and burned them.” (Behn 72) This scenario is quite similar to what happened before the crucifixion of Christ as Oroonoko blesses the very same men who bind him and lead him to his excruciating death. From the Gospel of St. Luke, Jesus pleaded with God to forgive his accusers stating “for they know not what they do” (King James Bible, Luke 23:34). With all the power that he had, being a prince and all that, Oroonoko had the power to save himself from this fate. However, just as Jesus Christ, he refused to save himself as is noted in “he assured them, they need not tie him, for he would stand fixed like a rock.” (Behn 72)

Oroonoko is also Christ-like due to the fact that his death was not for his own sins, but so he could save his fellow slaves. Jesus Christ died for the salvation of mankind. Through most of the book, Oroonoko is referred to as “king” by the slaves (Behn 73). This is quite similar to the title which Christ was given;”king of Jews” (King James Bible, Luke 23:3). These titles were given even though at the time, both had nothing big to offer their followers. They had no property or power whatsoever, but still they managed to be worshipped.

In conclusion, Oroonoko was looked at as a Christ figure mainly because of the similarities in the events of his life with that of Jesus Christ. This includes the setting of the story, the events preceding his death, and how he responded to his dismemberment. Most of the scenes taking place, and his reactions to words of his accusers are quite similar to the story of Jesus Christ from the Bible.


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