In Oroonoko by Aphra Behn, the Governor makes a treaty with Tuscan and Oroonoko to end the slave revolt, and then immediately breaks one of the treaty's terms. What term is broken?

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David Morrison eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Byam, the Deputy-Governor of Surinam, epitomizes all that's wrong with Western colonialism. In his handling of Oroonoko, he proves himself to be a cruel, vindictive man who's so riddled with racial prejudice that he thinks he can break promises to the indigenous people with impunity. After Oroonoko leads a full-scale uprising against the English, Byam cynically tries to buy him off with false promises. He assures Caesar—as Trefry calls Oroonoko—that he will not be punished for his part in the slave revolt; instead, he'll be treated with the respect due to someone of noble blood.

However, Oroonoko doesn't trust Byam, and with good reason too. He demands that Byam promise to release him and his lover Imoinda, and to make that promise in writing. Byam agrees, but it quickly becomes apparent that his promises aren't worth the paper they're written on, as Oroonoko is tied to a tree and brutally whipped to within an inch of his life, and Imoinda is taken away.

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Lynnette Wofford eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Oroonoko by Aphra Behn attempts to give a view of slavery using first person narration and a wealth of realistic detail to make us empathize with the travails of the hero. The eponymous hero of the novel, Oroonoko, is a Prince in his own country, brave, well-educated, loyal and capable of profound love. After being enslaved and sold through the duplicity of an English ship's master, Oroonoko is reunited with his beloved, and upon hearing his story, the governor promises that Oroonoko and Imoinda will be granted freedom and sent back to their homeland. 

Oroonoko, however, distrusts the promises of the governor, and leads a slave revolt during which he and Imoinda obtain temporary freedom. Next, during the revolt, the governor promises that in return for surrendering, Oroonoko will not be punished. Immediately upon his surrender, the governor has him tied to a stake and whipped so badly that all of the flesh is stripped from his bones in some places, breaking the terms of the treaty.

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