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Analyzing Gallagher’s Oroonoko’s Blackness

Analyzing Gallagher’s Oroonoko’s Blackness

Oroonoko is a fascinating text overflowing with descriptions of complex relations between and within the different races. The attitudes and actions of the Aphra Behn and her characters would make for a rich analysis from any number of behavioral approaches, but there are many more layers to this story than the dominant racial themes. In fact, in “Oroonoko’s Blackness” Catherine Gallagher argues that the main character’s unusually dark skin color actually represents kingship, commodification, and the degree to which he and the author are embodied in the work. Though Gallagher recognizes the significance of Oroonoko’s ethnicity in the conflict between the African and European groups, she writes that it is displaced by these three ideas when examined from other perspectives. At times her arguments for this are difficult to decipher and appear contradictory, especially in the explanations on textuality, embodiment and transcendence, but, overall, the claims of the criticism are strong and convincing.

In this essay the author makes a believable argument for her theories of kingship and commodification. These ideas are interrelated and dependent upon Oroonoko’s blackness symbolizing worth when it usually implies the opposite. Gallagher mentions the question of why Oroonoko’s skin is so much darker than the rest of his people when blackness is almost always associated with moral degeneracy and light colored complexion with nobleness. Her answer is that it actually improves his status as a hero. She explains that his accomplishments, which are comparable to the most famous Europeans, distinguishes him as a leader, but “it is in his blackness that his heroism partakes of t…

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…works, it seems pointless to mention a view of The Unfortunate Bride that is contrary to the work she is critiquing without explaining the cause for the difference. By first connecting authorial obscurity to Mooria, the reader assumes that it will again be related to The Royal Slave. But the reverse occurs and causes confusion. If Gallagher does not know the reason for the difference, then she should stay with the original text and not refer to any outside sources that do not agree with her argument.

Though Gallagher’s critique may be somewhat lacking, there is no doubt of her superior understanding of Oroonoko and its implications. Her claims are original and calls the audience’s attention to subtle themes. The criticism may require several readings to capture all of its meanings, but its interpretation creates enough interest to make it worthwhile.

Formalistic Approach To His Coy Mistress by Andrew Marvell

The formalistic approach to an open text allows the reader to devour the poem or story and break down all the characteristics that make it unique. The reader is able to hear the text rather than read it, and can eventually derive a general understanding or gist of the text. “According to the Handbook of Critical Approaches to Literature “when all the words, phrases, metaphors, images, and symbols are examined in terms of each other and of the whole, any literary text worth our efforts will display its own internal logic” (Geurin 75).” When utilizing the formalistic approach, the reader must search in and out of the lines for point of view, form, imagery, structure, symbolism, style, texture, and so on. Using the general theme of time, it is important to focus on structure, style, and imagery found in Andrew Marvell’s poem “To His Coy Mistress”.

Structure, a major tool stressed in this poem, tends to rearrange the text in a large-scale way. In “To His Coy Mistress”, the reader should focus on the most significant types of structure: stanza and temporal. In other words, time and chronological order assemble the whole meaning of the text throughout the poem. Although the story contains seduction and intimacy, which is portrayed in the title alone, it is merely a cry for two lovers to be together before time runs out. Temporally, the man first explains to the woman how he would love her if he only had the time. The man’s sincerity is truly expressed when Marvell writes, “Had we but world enough, and time…I would love you ten years before the flood…nor would I love at lower rate,” (373: 1, 7-8, 20). It seems that the man genuinely cares for the lady, or is he secretly seducing her into bed? Taking a look at the second stanza…

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… is romantic and at ease, but he turns brisk and honest as time disintegrates. This image becomes crystal clear with words and phrases such as, “heart”, “beauty”, “youthful hue sits on thy skin”, “our sweetness”, “virginity”, “breast”, and “pleasures”. All of these words provide the reader with an illustration of the man’s desires. The use of imagery permits the author to fully describe the necessity of time, and allows the reader to visualize the thoughts and feelings that the characters experience.

The formalistic approach is only one way of dissecting an open text such as the poem “To His Coy Mistress”, but it is one of the best ways to search for the overall meaning of a text. With tools such as structure, style, and imagery, the reader becomes personally involved with the characters and savors the story instead of just reading the written words.

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