Oroonoko And Narrator Role

In Oroonoko, Behn establishes her authority within the opening lines and
consistently reminds her audience of her position as narrator by mentioning her
personal role in the story. In the second paragraph, Behn establishes this
authority by saying, "I was myself an eyewitness to a great part of what you
will find here set down, and what I could not be witness of, I received from the
mouth of the chief actor in this history, the hero himself who gave us the whole
transactions of his youth...(1867) In this passage, Behn uses first person and
testifies that she was indeed a personal acquaintance of Oroonoko. She also says
that Oroonoko gave her his life history from his own mouth. The rest of Oroonoko,

Behn was herself, "an eyewitness". This also means that the author and the
narrator are one single entity. Behn acknowledges that it is she who writes this
story, through her own narration. In other words, the narrator is not a
character of the story, but the authoritative author. Throughout the first half
of the story, Behn maintains an aura of authority through various devices. She
speaks to her readers almost as if in an informal conversation, using
contractions such as "\'em". Behn also frequently uses asides such as
in the following, "There is a certain ceremony in these cases to be
observed, which I forgot to ask him how performed; but \'twas concluded on both
sides that, in obedience to him..." (1872) In this Behn draws her readers
into an intimate account of a personal story. To strengthen her position, Behn\'s
account is wrought with detail. One would assume that the readers of her time
would be quite unfamiliar with her subject matter, so she seeks to enlighten
with descriptions of detail. For example, Behn describes Oroonoko, "[h]e
was pretty tall, but of a shape the most exact that can be fancied. The most
famous statuary could not form the figure.... His face was not of that brown,
rusty black which most of that nation are, but a perfect ebony or polished jet.

His eyes were the most awful that could be seen, and very piercing, the white of\'em being like snow, as were his teeth. His nose was rising and Roman, instead
of African and flat; his mouth the finest shaped that could be
seen..."(1871) Without this detail that Behn paints, her readers could not
have such a clear picture, but because she was there, she has taken it upon
herself to provide her audience with a clear image. Behn also made a statement
about Christianity by comparing Oroonoko’s morality with that of the Christian
men. "For the captain had protested to him upon the word of a Christian, and
sworn in the name of a great God, which he should violate, he would expect
eternal torment in the world to come." Behn then includes Oroonoko\'s
retort, "Let him know I swear by my honor; which to violate, would not only
render me contemptible and despised by all brave and honest men..." (1886)

Through Behn\'s depiction of the two men, the captain and Oroonoko, she expresses
the contrasting moral values, thus making a strong point about her own culture.

As the author and narrator, she exercises her authority to do so, making
simultaneously, a point about her position of authority. Had she not been able
to represent, in herself, a position of authority, she would not have taken such
a stance. Finally, in the closing lines of her story, Behn acknowledges that
she, "by the reputation of her pen" has the authority to convey such a
story. In those innocent six words, Behn not only acknowledges her authority of

Oroonoko\'s story, but her own greatness as author as well.