One of the key themes present throughout Aphra Behn’s Oroonoko is “otherness" based solely on the concept of racial identity. In the course of presenting the tale of the “noble slave," this theme is highlighted through distinct narrative techniques as opposed to making this sense of self versus other prominent in the story itself. Her style of narration is rather journalistic, which leads the reader, if unchecked, to be compelled to begin to think it as truth, but more importantly than that, the reader is unconsciously coerced into assuming her biases and thoughts since she makes personal interjections throughout the text. This aspect of the self versus other theme is also explored in the similarly journalistic and first person narrative of DeFoe’s “Robinson Crusoe”, as the narrator details his experiences and encounters with the “other" (Africans or other races) and adds personal asides as well.

In addition to Oroonoko and Othello, the theme of self versus other is apparent in both of these texts along with the same style of narration. In many senses, since the same themes are being explored in Shakespeare’s Othello, this work must not be left out of the discussion since in many ways, it seems as though the format of a play is somewhat similar to first-person narrative since we are given the words of the characters with the biases inherent in them. Although the general style and representation of race in “Othello”is devoid of the journalistic style that sets Oroonoko and Crusoe apart, there is nevertheless the same theme of the self versus other paradigm being expressed through a first-person narration of some kind. Although Oroonoko stands as the focal point of this study, it should be noted that comparing it with the narratives presenting the same theme of “otherness"—particularly as far as race is concerned—of DeFoe and Shakespeare, the reader can be begin to understand how the sense of self and other are created and even consciously formed through the act of first-person narration.

The representation of “otherness" in Behn’s Oroonoko is achieved by her highly personal, journalistic, and first-person narrative of what she claims is the true account of the “noble savage," Caesar. Before beginning with her tale, she assures the reader of her reliability and prefaces the novel with one of the important quotes from “Oroonoko” by Aphra Behn, “I was myself an eyewitness to this great part of what you’ll find here set down, and what I could not be witness of, I received from the mouth of the chief actor in this history, there hero himself" (1). This sets her apart from the very beginning, not simply as a mere narrator, but as the one whose viewpoints are likely to cloud the narrative. More importantly, this first person narration sets her apart as an individual and forms our (the narrator herself and our own) perspective, thus rendering the reader unable to view the subject of her story as anything but “other". Thus in this paradigm of self versus other, we become this new self, this narrator, and take on not only her version and chronology of events, but also more importantly, her biases and weaknesses. Strangely, the reader could easily fall victim to the same racial biases she presents through her story is not kept on guard and there seems to be the need for a constant “checking" of one’s self to avoid falling into this habit.

The character of Oroonoko, from this point forward to be referred to as “Caesar" is always subject to the narrator’s visions of fancy and much like Desmonda in Othello, she is taken in by his exotic nature. While on the one hand, with a different style of less self-aware narration we might be able to gain a fuller picture of Caesar, we are only allowed to view him through the eyes of a woman that may, albeit it questionably, be sexually attracted to the prince. Instead of being permitted to view him as anything but novel, we are only told how he seems in terms of otherness, thus the emphasis is placed more on exoticism than an effort to portray him in a more subjective way. Even our female narrator’s descriptions themselves are places within the context of multiple layers of otherness (as opposed to just black versus white). For example, in the long series of introductions to Caesar, she states, almost in the form of an itemized list; ““His nose was rising and Roman instead of African and flat; his mouth the finest shape that could be seen, far from those great turned lips which are so natural to the rest of the Negroes. The whole proportion and air of his face was so noble and exactly formed that, bating his color there could be nothing in nature more beautiful, agreeable, and handsome" (5). In this case, there is not just the level of simple white and black differences, but Oroonoko is now being compared and contrasted on more layers of blackness. His features would lead one to believe he was white and even more importantly, noble and white (as well as the connection to his later name, Caesar, and his “Roman" features).

In this and other passages in “Oroonoko” by Aphra Behn, he is already being set both within and outside of white society while being further alienated by the mere fact that he cannot be easily integrated into this narrator’s sense of self and other. At once, Behn’s narrator seems to think of him as one of her own “kind" yet on the other hand, it seems that once she gets too close to that notion, she pulls herself away from it (thus pulls us with her). Consider that she first begins to connect her with her version of self (white and noble) and then seems to fear danger and immediately discounts herself, by stating that he is beautiful, but that “bating his color" nothing else should prevent this man from becoming a part of her self as opposed to an oddity, a foreigner, and no matter how amusing or fascinating she might find him—an other.

The way exoticism functions in each text is also the result of narration. If the reader was given a less biased way viewing these characters (i.e. as not self or other, but rather in the objective, third-person sense) this aspect might be lost. In Oroonoko, there are very few descriptions of any of the physical characteristics of the whites that surround the narrator and there are none given of the narrator herself. Since the “others" in this text are all of a different race though, this capacity for integrating exoticism seems boundless. The whites are never given a purpose; they simply “exist" in the colonies (even though the narrator clearly assumes we know their purpose there). Conversely, the story of how Caesar came to be in the colonies and with Imoinda are of great interest and even more heavily described are their appearances, clothing, beliefs, thoughts, etc. They are taken completely out of the context of the familiar and are separated from all Anglo notions of race, religion, and society. “And these people represented to me an absolute idea of the firs state of innocence, before man knew how to sin. And ‘tis most evident and plain that simple Nature is the most harmless, inoffensive, and virtuous mistress" (2). Instead of being part of any society or religion, there are simply organic, as if the very product of nature itself, rather than in any way connected with the European idea of civilization. This same action of emphasizing the exotic and ignoring the “self" is apparent in Robinson Crusoe, when the narrator is prone to reciting the details of the foreigners he meets, while leaving out all the details about the Europeans. Still, in the company of these slaves, whom he treats as completely “other" he is wont to give far more description and even admission of feelings. He tells Xury that he loves him, yet strangely, even though he is married later in the text, we never hear the name of the woman nor do we know anything about her…