Onahal initially tries to give Aboan her large and expensive pearl earrings as a token of her love for him. Aboan, however, makes it clear that he does not want just Onahal’s earrings—he also desires to share her bed. After Aboan clarifies this, Onahal’s actions and worldly attitude change the meaning behind the gift. She notably forces the pearls into Aboan’s hands, and then whispers plans for their rendezvous. Clearly, her intentions behind the gift were never innocent at all. Onahal is an older and more sexually experienced woman, and her gift of the pearl earrings represents these qualities. Her “pearls” are not new—that is, she is not a virgin—but the gift represents what a valuable “conquest” she is. Not only does Onahal have the power and prestige to help advance Aboan’s career, but she also has the capacity to help Oroonoko and Imoinda reunite.
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The Oroonoko quotes below all refer to the symbol of Onahal’s Pearl Earrings. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:).
The timeline below shows where the symbol Onahal’s Pearl Earrings appears in Oroonoko. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
1. Oroonoko in Coramantien