Study Guide


In the African kingdom of Coromantien, the ruler is an old man more than one hundred years of age. His grandson, Prince Oroonoko, is the bravest, most beloved young man in all the land. When the commanding general is killed in battle, Oroonoko is chosen to take his place, even though the prince is only seventeen years old. After a great victory in battle, Prince Oroonoko presents himself at the court of his grandfather, the king. His noble and martial bearing makes him an instant favorite with lords and ladies alike.

Oroonoko also visits Imoinda, the daughter of his dead general, a girl as beautiful and modest as he is handsome and brave. The two noble young people immediately fall in love. They marry, but before the marriage can be consummated, Oroonoko makes known his plans to his grandfather the king. Although the old man already has many wives, he had heard of the loveliness of Imoinda and wants her for his own. When Oroonoko is absent one day, the king sends his veil to Imoinda, a royal command that she is to join his harem. Since it is against the law for even a king to take another man’s wife, the old man makes her forswear her marriage and acknowledge him as her husband.

When Oroonoko returns and learns of the old man’s treachery, he renounces all pleasures in longing for his lost wife. The lovers dare not let the king know their true feelings, for to do so means death for both of them (even though Oroonoko is of the king’s own blood). While pretending not to care for his lost Imoinda, Oroonoko is again invited to the royal palace. There he learns from some of the king’s women that Imoinda is still a virgin. Oroonoko plans to rescue her. With the help of his friend, Aboan, and one of the older wives of the king, Oroonoko enters the apartment of Imoinda and takes her as his true wife. Spied upon by the king’s orders, Oroonoko is apprehended and forced to flee back to his army camp, leaving Imoinda to the mercies of the king. Enraged because he had been betrayed by his own blood, the old man determines to kill the girl and then punish Oroonoko. To save her life, Imoinda tells the king that Oroonoko had raped her. The king then declares that she must be punished with worse than death; he sells her into slavery.

The king gives up his intent to punish his grandson, for Oroonoko controls the soldiers and the king fears they might be turned against him. Instead, he takes Oroonoko back into his favor after telling the boy that Imoinda had been given an honorable death for her betrayal of the king. Oroonoko holds no grudge against the king and does not act against him; for a long time, however, he pines for his lost wife. At last, his grief grows less, and he once more takes his place at the royal court.

Soon afterward, an English merchant ship arrives in the port of Coromantien. When the ship’s master, well known to Oroonoko, invites the prince and his friends to a party on board, Oroonoko, Aboan, and others gladly accept the invitation. Once on board, all are seized and made prisoners and later sold as slaves in Suriname on the coast of South America. The man who bought Oroonoko, seeing the nobility of his slave, immediately feels great esteem for him. Indeed, except for the fact that he has been bought, Oroonoko is not a slave at all, but rather a friend to his master. In the colony as in his own homeland, Oroonoko is loved, admired, and respected by all who see him. His name is changed to Caesar.

In a short time, Oroonoko, now known as Caesar, hears of a lovely young girl whom all the men want for their own. It is believed, however, that she pines for a lost love. When Oroonoko sees her, he sees Imoinda, whom he had thought dead. Reunited with great joy, the lovers are allowed to live together and are promised their freedom and passage to their own country as soon as the governor arrives to make the arrangements.

Oroonoko, however, begins to fear that he and his wife are never going to be set free, that the promise...

(The entire page is 1,122 words.)

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