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Lecture 15

CAS WR 100 Lecture 15: ooronoko notes 4

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CAS WR 100
Ted Fitts

The Parhamites easily find the slaves’ trail, which has been well cleared by the hundreds of runaways. Caesar soon realizes he is being pursued, and he adopts a “posture of defense.” The women and children file to the back and the men come forward. The slaves don’t waste time trying to “parley” with the English—instead they begin fighting immediately, guerilla style. Despite Caesar’s practical defense strategies, the slaves are basically sitting ducks. There are too many of them, and the English search party is too close on their heels for them to run and hide. Fighting is their best and only option to escape. Seeing their husbands being hurt and people dying all around, the enslaved women become frightened. When the English cry out, “Yield and live, yield and be pardoned,” wives and children rush into the fray and cling to their husbands and fathers, urging them to yield and leave the fighting to Caesar. Soon, only two fighters remain beside Caesar, Tuscan, and Imoinda. The rest have fled. Apparently the fearful women and their husbands are what Caesar referred to as “degenerates”—those who would rather live as slaves than die in the pursuit of freedom. This is another kind of betrayal for Caesar, and a reflection of the narrator’s view that for some races, slavery and subservience are only natural—Caesar is the Imoinda is quite skilled with her bow. She wounds several of the whites with her poisoned arrows, including Byam. The narrator notes that he would have died if his Indian mistress had not sucked the poison out of his wound. Caesar, Tuscan, and Imoinda all resolve to die fighting rather than surrender and be captured. Recognizing this and now thirsting for a more exacting revenge against Caesar, Byam changes tactics and tries to negotiate. Imoinda is not only a pretty face and Caesar’s love interest—she is also resourceful and skilled at fighting. This is a departure from the typical representation of women in the seventeenth century as gentle and delicate creatures. Byam, like the Captain, relies on his deceitful nature to coerce Caesar into surrendering. Byam tells Caesar that his decision to revolt was rash, and that Byam’s men have stopped fighting because they esteem Caesar. Byam then promises to abide by any terms Caesar demands, and says that if his child is born on the island, he or she will be free. Byam also promises to put Caesar and his wife on the next passing ship and send them back to Coramantien. Caesar agrees that he acted rashly— saying that he should not have tried to free those who are by nature slaves—but he tells Byam that he has no faith in the white men or their gods anymore. Trefry believes Byam to mean what he says, however, and he privately persuades Caesar to surrender and name his conditions. Trefry even
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