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Introduction Aphra Behns Oroonoko is presented as an amalgamation of three narrative forms memoir biography and travel narrative narrated by an English woman visiting the colony in Surinam1 In this essay I will examine the ways in which power groups are presented within the text and in particular the ways in which the narrator and the hero are able to transcend them I will argue that Oroonokos contradictory status as both a prince and a slave causes his death while the narrators ability to identify herself with either the powerful or the marginalised sectors of society allows her to avoid responsibility for his death whilst taking credit for immortalising his story The effect of this is to highlight contradictions in the ideologies of European culture Aphra Behn Aphra Behn is thought to have been in Surinam with her family between 1663 and 1664 She writes as if she herself is the narrator telling of her own experiences while abroad The I of the narrative is an educated woman whose father the lieutenant Governor of six and thirty islands besides the continent of Surinam 2 died on the ship on the way there Although Behn almost certainly inflates her own social status in order to create this narrator it is clear that much of her description of Surinam comes from a detailed knowledge of the place which suggests that at least some of what she says is true Exactly how much is fact and what is fiction is impossible to say Whether or not the narrator should be taken to be synonymous with the author is uncertain but by having a narrator who claims to have been an eyewitness or have spoken to an eyewitness to the whole story ends the tale a certain authority Power Groups There are three power groups in the hierarchy of the colony and by emphasising her high social status the narrator aligns herself immediately with the dominant power in the
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