Denison Journal of Religion


Empires use all the weapons in their arsenal as it attempts to justify its actions. Literature has often been made a tool, but it also has a history of criticizing empire. In this essay, Perrings uses the example of the novella Oroonoko by Aphra Behn. This woman author of the 17th century uses a tale about an African prince sold into slavery in South America as a critique British Empire's dehumanization of native peoples, slaves, and women. The language that Behn uses over the course of work resonates with Christian metaphors. While religion was often used to legitimate empire, Behn uses her writings to criticize empire through a Christian lens. This attempt is most clear during the murder of Oroonoko, who shows control and refinement while the British brutally murder him. His execution reverberates with the language of Christ's crucifixion and in both instances the figures are accepting death as freedom from the bonds they previously experienced. This is a prime example of literature using Christianity to subvert the empire and recognize with respect those the empire so brutally oppresses.