Oroonoko

Prince Oroonoko Character Analysis

The last descendant of the King of Coramantien, Oroonoko was raised away from the court to be a skillful warrior by Imoinda’s father. The narrator stresses that he is extraordinarily handsome, intelligent, and honorable, despite being black. Oroonoko has strong notions of duty and perfectly follows the codes of his society, except when his love for Imoinda compels him to protect and honor their marriage by taking her life to protect her and their unborn child. He mistakenly assumes that his notion of honor means the same thing to the white Christians he comes into contact with—a mistake that several times ends up depriving him of his freedom. Trefry christens Oroonoko as “Caesar,” and he is referred to as such from then on. Oroonoko/Caesar is also incredibly brave, and performs many skillful, daring feats while hunting game in Suriname.

Prince Oroonoko Quotes in Oroonoko

The Oroonoko quotes below are all either spoken by Prince Oroonoko or refer to Prince Oroonoko. 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:
Racism Theme Icon
).
1. Oroonoko in Coramantien Quotes

I do not pretend, in giving you the history of this Royal Slave, to entertain my reader with adventures of a feigned hero, whose life and fortunes fancy may manage at the poet's pleasure; nor in relating the truth, design to adorn it with any accidents but such as arrived in earnest to him.

Related Characters: Narrator (Aphra Behn) (speaker), Prince Oroonoko

He was adorned with a native beauty, so transcending all those of his gloomy race that he struck an awe and reverence even into those that knew not his quality; as he did into me, who beheld him with surprise and wonder, when afterwards he arrived in our world.

Related Characters: Narrator (Aphra Behn) (speaker), Prince Oroonoko

The whole proportion and air of his face was so nobly and exactly formed that, bating his color, there could be nothing in nature more beautiful, agreeable, and handsome.

Related Characters: Narrator (Aphra Behn) (speaker), Prince Oroonoko

Imoinda is as irrecoverably lost to me as if she were snatched by the cold arms of death… Oh! she is never to be retrieved… unless I would either ignobly set an ill precedent to my successors, or abandon my country, and fly with her to some unknown world who never heard our story.

And I have observed, 'tis a very great error in those who laugh when one says, "A negro can change color": for I have seen 'em as frequently blush, and look pale, and that as visibly as ever I saw in the most beautiful white. And 'tis certain that both these changes were evident, this day, in both these lovers.

To describe her truly, one need say only, she was female to the noble male; the beautiful black Venus to our young Mars; as charming in her person as he, and of delicate virtues. I have seen a hundred white men sighing after her, and making a thousand vows at her feet, all in vain, and unsuccessful.

2. Kidnapped Quotes

Some have commended this act, as brave in the captain; but I will spare my sense of it, and leave it to my reader to judge as he pleases.

Related Characters: Narrator (Aphra Behn) (speaker), Prince Oroonoko, The Captain

He was very sorry to hear that the captain pretended to the knowledge and worship of any gods, who had taught him no better principles than not to credit as he would be credited.

Related Characters: Narrator (Aphra Behn) (speaker), Prince Oroonoko, The Captain

Come, my fellow-slaves, let us descend, and see if we can meet with more honor and honesty in the next world we shall touch upon.

Related Characters: Prince Oroonoko (speaker), The Captain
3. Slavery in Suriname Quotes

He saw an honesty in his eyes, and he found him wise and witty enough to understand honor: for it was one of his maxims, A man of wit could not be a knave or villain.

Related Characters: Narrator (Aphra Behn) (speaker), Prince Oroonoko, Trefry

He begged Trefry to give him something more befitting a slave, which he did, and took off his robes: nevertheless he shone through all, and his osenbrigs…could not conceal the graces of his looks and mien; and he had no less admirers …the royal youth appeared in spite of the slave, and people could not help treating him after a different manner, without designing it.

Related Characters: Narrator (Aphra Behn) (speaker), Prince Oroonoko, Trefry

But as it was more for form than any design to put him to his task, he endured no more of the slave but the name, and remained some days in the house, receiving all visits that were made him, without stirring towards that part of the plantation where the negroes were.

Related Characters: Narrator (Aphra Behn) (speaker), Prince Oroonoko

I was infinitely glad to find this beautiful young slave (who had already gained all our esteems, for her modesty and her extraordinary prettiness) to be the same I had heard Caesar speak so much of…we paid her a treble respect; and though…we took her to be of quality before, yet when we knew Clemene was Imoinda, we could not enough admire her.

Much more to this effect he spoke, with an air impatient enough to make me know he would not be long in bondage; and though he suffered only the name of a slave, and had nothing of the toil and labor of one, yet that was sufficient to render him uneasy; and he had been too long idle, who used to be always in action, and in arms.

Related Characters: Narrator (Aphra Behn) (speaker), Prince Oroonoko

And it's by a passive valor they show and prove their activity; a sort of courage too brutal to be applauded by our black hero; nevertheless, he expressed his esteem of 'em.

Related Characters: Narrator (Aphra Behn) (speaker), Prince Oroonoko
4. Oroonoko’s Revolt Quotes

And why," said he, my dear friends and fellow-sufferers, should we be slaves to an unknown people? Have they vanquished us nobly in fight? Have they won us in honorable battle? And are we by the chance of war become their slaves?

Related Characters: Prince Oroonoko (speaker)

But Caesar told him there was no faith in the white men, or the gods they adored; who instructed them in principles so false that honest men could not live amongst them; though no people professed so much, none performed so little.

Related Characters: Prince Oroonoko (speaker), Governor Byam
5. Oroonoko’s Revenge Quotes

All that love could say in such cases being ended, and all the intermitting irresolutions being adjusted, the lovely, young, and adored victim lays herself down before the sacrificer; while he, with a hand resolved, and a heart breaking within, gave the fatal stroke, first cutting her throat, and then severing her yet smiling face from that delicate body, pregnant as it was with the fruits of tenderest love.

He tore, he raved, he roared like some monster of the wood, calling on the loved name of Imoinda. A thousand times he turned the fatal knife that did the deed toward his own heart, with a resolution to go immediately after her; but dire revenge, which was now a thousand times more fierce in his soul than before, prevents him.

"Look ye, ye faithless crew," said he, "'tis not life I seek, nor am I afraid of dying" (and at that word, cut a piece of flesh from his own throat, and threw it at 'em), "yet still I would live if I could, till I had perfected my revenge. But oh! it cannot be; I feel life gliding from my eyes and heart; and if I make not haste, I shall fall a victim to the shameful whip."

Related Characters: Prince Oroonoko (speaker)

"My friends, am I to die, or to be whipped?" And they cried, "Whipped!”...And then he replied, smiling, "A blessing on thee"; and assured them they need not tie him, for he would stand fixed like a rock, and endure death so as should encourage them to die; "But, if you whip me," said he, "be sure you tie me fast."

Related Characters: Prince Oroonoko (speaker)

I hope, the reputation of my pen is considerable enough to make his glorious name to survive all the ages, with that of the brave, the beautiful, and the constant Imoinda.

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Prince Oroonoko Character Timeline in Oroonoko

The timeline below shows where the character Prince Oroonoko appears in Oroonoko. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
1. Oroonoko in Coramantien
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In the beginning of Oroonoko, the narrator (an unnamed Englishwoman) directly addresses the reader to explain that the tale she... (full context)
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Before she begins the story of Oroonoko’s life, the narrator makes one further aside. She explains that it is necessary to first... (full context)
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...war—those captured by the army of Coramantien, the brave and warlike African nation from which Oroonoko came. (full context)
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With this background, the narrator at last comes to the story of Oroonoko’s life. She begins by outlining his royal lineage, warrior upbringing, and the events that brought... (full context)
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Here the narrator makes another digression from the narrative to describe Oroonoko’s intelligence, morality, and beauty—the traits he was most admired for in the West Indies. She... (full context)
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The narrator assures readers of the truth of Oroonoko’s merits by describing her own impressions of him, and the details of their first meeting.... (full context)
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...into the chronological sequence of the narrative, the narrator reminds readers that the death of Oroonoko’s mentor (Imoinda’s father) has huge consequences other than just bringing Oroonoko back to court. Apparently... (full context)
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Not much time passes before Oroonoko pays a second visit to the fair Imoinda. Shortly thereafter, the brave warrior, unused to... (full context)
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Importantly, Oroonoko vows that Imoinda will be the only woman he marries, “contrary to the custom of... (full context)
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The narrator then provides some details about the old King, who is not like Oroonoko at all. Though he is almost one hundred years old, the King is still interested... (full context)
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The King is hardly dissuaded by this news, however. One day when Oroonoko is out hunting, he brings Imoinda to the palace, wanting to discreetly observe her and... (full context)
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Suspecting nothing, Imoinda is naturally overjoyed to receive what she thinks is Oroonoko’s gift. She expresses her feelings for Oroonoko in no uncertain way before the King. Seeing... (full context)
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...interrupts her, threatening death to whomever she names as her husband, even if it be Oroonoko himself! The King demands that Imoinda deny her marriage and swear herself a virgin, the... (full context)
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Oroonoko returns from his hunt and finds Imoinda missing. When he finds out that she has... (full context)
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Oroonoko’s friends try to comfort him by telling him that his grandfather is in the wrong,... (full context)
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...to speak often about her husband, something the King allows because he still dotes on Oroonoko. (full context)
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To make matters worse for Oroonooko, the King has been asking his friends and attendants how he’s been coping with the... (full context)
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In time, Oroonoko and the King have a number of meetings. By carefully hiding his true feelings, Oroonoko... (full context)
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Despite being able to fool the King, when Oroonoko sees Imoinda for the first time since she’s been taken away, he blushes deeply and... (full context)
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Imoinda is overjoyed to see Oroonoko so pained, because now she knows that he still loves her. While caressing the King,... (full context)
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...bedroom and retires to wait until she is called. She passes by the room where Oroonoko is still lying on the floor, and hears his moaning. She administers cordials to restore... (full context)
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Oroonoko’s friend Aboan, who has presumably been with Oroonoko the entire time, agrees with Onahal’s assessment.... (full context)
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The talk with Onahal gives Oroonoko new hope, and allows him to act unconcerned when the King and Imoinda emerge from... (full context)
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...about her new role, and decides that she must feel badly used. For his part, Oroonoko too fears that Onahal might be unwilling to help him because the King no longer... (full context)
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...Aboan and Onahal in the window seat. Aboan is a beautiful and virtuous man, like Oroonoko, and because he has visited the Otan often, he has captured Onahal’s interest. The narrator... (full context)
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...be picky about the appearance of a woman who is sexually available. Plus, knowing of Oroonoko’s longing to be with Imoinda, he sees an opportunity to help his friend by seducing... (full context)
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When the King breaks up the festivities to retire, Aboan returns to Oroonoko with the news of his success with Onahal. Oroonoko asks Aboan to continue to seduce... (full context)
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Soon a war has broken out, however, and Oroonoko must go to the front lines. He vows to meet with Imoinda the next time... (full context)
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When an invitation to return to the Otan arrives, Oroonoko senses that this will be his last chance to be with Imoinda before they are... (full context)
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...on Imoinda, who seems prettier than ever because Onahal has been giving her news about Oroonoko. Oroonoko too watches Imoinda, and she watches him. Unfortunately, as she dances closer to the... (full context)
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Everyone in the court sees how happy Oroonoko is to hold Imoinda. He is so excited to have her in his arms that... (full context)
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...drags Imoinda away, sending word behind him that the Prince must depart for war immediately—if Oroonoko stays another night, he will die for his disobedience. Meanwhile Onahal, recognizing that her happiness... (full context)
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Behind closed doors, the King confronts Imoinda. He thinks she and Oroonoko planned her fall, and he doesn’t listen when Imoinda protests her innocence. The King leaves... (full context)
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At midnight, spies watch Oroonoko and Aboan arrive at the Otan’s back gate, where Onahal lets them in. They relay... (full context)
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Oroonoko approaches the sleeping Imoinda and awakens her with his caresses. Imoinda is still a virgin,... (full context)
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...a great commotion in the Otan. Hearing the voices of many men outside Imoinda’s chambers, Oroonoko springs out of bed and grabs his battleax to fend off the intruders. He yells... (full context)
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Shortly thereafter, the enraged King confronts Imoinda and Onahal. Hoping to buy Oroonoko time and save his life, both women lie and say that Oroonoko broke in and... (full context)
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...the purity of which his courtiers now all openly testify to. He also admits that Oroonoko had good reason to do all he did. But the King mostly repents of his... (full context)
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The messenger arrives as Oroonoko is preparing for battle. Oroonoko guesses that Imoinda is dead from the messenger’s downcast looks.... (full context)
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When they are about to lose, Oroonoko’s fighting spirit gets the best of his grief. He storms into battle and gravely wounds... (full context)
2. Kidnapped
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After the war, Oroonoko decides to stay in his camp rather than return to court, the site of his... (full context)
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Not long after Oroonoko’s return, an English slave trader arrives in Coramantien’s port. The Captain of the ship has... (full context)
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As the date for the Captain’s departure draws near, he invites Oroonoko to dine with him onboard his ship, in order to repay the prince’s generosity. Oroonoko... (full context)
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During the journey, Oroonoko is kept apart from his men and is tightly bound to prevent his escape. Greatly... (full context)
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Believing that the Captain will keep his promise, Oroonoko agrees and swears an oath. Oroonoko is a man of honor and would never break... (full context)
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The back-and-forth between Oroonoko, the messenger, and the Captain continues. The Captain again refuses to release Oroonoko, saying that... (full context)
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Realizing that he has no choice but to free Oroonoko if he is to sell healthy slaves, the Captain relents. He also concludes that Oroonoko... (full context)
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The Captain finally visits Oroonoko and removes his irons, leaving him to rest and eat, but encouraging him to visit... (full context)
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...are even “pleased with their captivity” because by it, they hope to redeem the Prince. Oroonoko, however, considers his capture to be punishment for leaving Imoinda behind to be murdered. Needless... (full context)
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Finally the ship arrives in Suriname, an English colony in South America. Oroonoko and each of his men are put in separate lots along with other slaves. A... (full context)
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On his way off the ship, Oroonoko gives the Captain a furious look, which makes the Captain blush. Oroonoko shouts that he... (full context)
3. Slavery in Suriname
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During Oroonoko’s boat ride, the narrator describes Trefry, the young Cornish gentleman who has purchased Oroonoko. Trefry... (full context)
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Trefry immediately recognizes that Oroonoko is different from the average slave, due to his fancy garb and his regal attitude.... (full context)
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Trefry’s behavior and their discovered common interests help Oroonoko relax on the boat ride. The two men engage in a mutually enjoyable conversation, and... (full context)
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...estates for refreshments. At these stops, large crowds have gathered on the banks to see Oroonoko, whose fame has preceded him. Oroonoko is uncomfortable with this attention, and asks Trefry to... (full context)
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Also during the journey to the plantation, Trefry gives Oroonoko a Christian name, a common practice amongst slave owners. For the rest of the tale... (full context)
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Back in the narrative, Caesar comes to Parham House, the great house of the plantation, where he is received as... (full context)
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During the dinner, Trefry, who “loves to talk of love,” tells Caesar about Clemene, the beautiful “she-slave” whom everyone, white men included, is in love with. Trefry... (full context)
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The next day, Trefry and Caesar go on a walk, and Trefry points out Clemene’s house. Suddenly, a little dog runs... (full context)
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...House to tell the narrator the good news. The narrator is then impatient to meet Caesar’s love and befriend her. She remarks that after this incident, the colonists now pay Imoinda... (full context)
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Soon after reuniting, Caesar and Imoinda get married “to the general joy of all people.” Not long after, they... (full context)
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Trefry and other colonists make daily promises to Caesar, hoping to delay his departure until the Lord Governor can come to Suriname and assess... (full context)
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The narrator tells Caesar and Imoinda stories about the lives of the Romans, which Caesar enjoys, and she also... (full context)
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Through these conversations, the narrator gets to know Caesar much better. She realizes that he likes the company of women more than that of... (full context)
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Before Caesar leaves the narrator that day, she makes him promise to be patient a little while... (full context)
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These precautions are implemented for some time. Caesar doesn’t realize he’s being watched, but instead thinks that colonists are showing him increased respect,... (full context)
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Caesar once steals a tiger cub from a tigress, slaying the beast when it tries to... (full context)
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With Caesar in tow, the narrator and her friends search for “wonderful and strange things,” from exotic,... (full context)
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With Caesar acting as guard on these ambassadorial missions, however, the English crew feel safe enough to... (full context)
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...admire the white visitors. Through the interpreter, they learn about each other’s cultures and affairs. Caesar is curious to know why so many of the native soldiers are disfigured and heavily... (full context)
4. Oroonoko’s Revolt
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The narrator diverts Caesar through these outings for some time. However, as Imoinda enters the late stages of her... (full context)
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At the feast, Caesar gives a passionate speech about the evils of slavery, its dehumanizing effects, and the dishonor... (full context)
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Everyone agrees to this plan, and Caesar adds that they can help one another on the journey. Men can take turns carrying... (full context)
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...fatal consequences for the whites. The reason is that these conscientious objectors are friends of Caesar, and some may have even helped him plan his escape. They also deplore the Parhamites,... (full context)
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...leads a band carrying whips, rusted guns (for show), and clubs into the jungle after Caesar. The narrator thinks Byam is a detestable person. He is the only leader who wants... (full context)
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...easily find the slaves’ trail, which has been well cleared by the hundreds of runaways. Caesar soon realizes he is being pursued, and he adopts a “posture of defense.” The women... (full context)
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...cling to their husbands and fathers, urging them to yield and leave the fighting to Caesar. Soon, only two fighters remain beside Caesar, Tuscan, and Imoinda. The rest have fled. (full context)
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Byam tells Caesar that his decision to revolt was rash, and that Byam’s men have stopped fighting because... (full context)
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...toward the plantation. Upon reaching the place where slaves are whipped, however, the Parhamites grab Caesar and Tuscan, who are both surprised and exhausted. The colonists bind the men tightly and... (full context)
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During his lashing, Caesar makes no sound and does not struggle. He only looks angrily at Byam, and at... (full context)
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Imoinda has not seen Caesar’s punishment, as the Parhamites made sure to lock her up inside Parham House to prevent... (full context)
5. Oroonoko’s Revenge
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The women do not travel very far when the news of Caesar’s whipping reaches them. On the river, they meet Colonel Martin, a great friend of Caesar’s,... (full context)
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...been recovering from Imoinda’s poisoned arrow, and has also been planning his own revenge against Caesar. He calls his council, which is made up of men whom the narrator describes as... (full context)
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...Trefry goes to Byam and tells him to stay away from his Lord’s servants (meaning Caesar) and that his authority does not extend to the plantation—Parham is a sanctuary. Trefry reminds... (full context)
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As Caesar recovers, he begins to think about his next move. He realizes that he will never... (full context)
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To carry out his plan, Caesar gets Trefry to let him take a walk with Imoinda, alone. They walk to a... (full context)
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Caesar stabs Imoinda, and then lays her body on a heap of leaves and flowers. His... (full context)
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Back at the plantation, the colonists begin to worry when Caesar and Imoinda don’t return from their walk. They think that some accident has befallen the... (full context)
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Hearing the search party approach, Caesar is finally able to stand up, having failed to do so for the past eight... (full context)
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...the search party returns, Byam’s Council decides that now is the perfect time to seize Caesar and carry out their plan. They return to the forest, but are wary of approaching... (full context)
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Tuscan is moved by Caesar’s determination, and cries out that he loves him and won’t let him die. He runs... (full context)
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Six days later, because of the diligent care of his friends, Caesar is able to talk again. He demands that they let him die, or else he... (full context)
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...upriver. Then a wild Irishman named Banister, who is a member of Byam’s Council, kidnaps Caesar from Parham house. He brings Caesar back to the same whipping post as before. The... (full context)
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Banister tells Caesar that he is going to die like the dog he is. Caesar responds that this... (full context)
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Turning to his persecutors, Caesar asks them if he is going to be whipped or killed. The men of Byam’s... (full context)
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Before the Council begins to torture Caesar, he asks for a pipe (he has learned to smoke while in Suriname). Caesar smokes... (full context)
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The narrator’s mother and sister remain by Caesar’s side during his execution, but they don’t dare to intervene because the Council is so... (full context)
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To conclude their barbarity, the Council cuts Caesar’s body into quarters, and then sends the sections of his body to the chief plantations... (full context)