She stood up and demanded to be heard and accepted; she never looked back and always stood her ground. She is certainly not to be forgotten. This essay functions as a general retrospective of the life and writings of Aphra Behn. Section I considers her background and career as a writer, including her time spent working as a spy for England; section II is an in-depth analysis of one of Behn’s most renowned works, the novel Oroonoko; finally, section III considers the extent to which Aphra Behn should assume her rightful place among the Western literary canon, ultimately arguing for her inclusion.
Aphra Behn, also known as Afra, Aphara, or Ayfara, was baptized at Waye, Kent, in 1640. Behn’s father was a barber named John Johnson. During the restoration period in which her father was raised record keeping wasn’t as well structured as contemporary standards; as a result, Behn’s father’s status is not entirely known and parts of Behn’s early childhood are shrouded in history. As a result, historians turn to her works for insight into these early childhood years. During these years she went to Surinam, and then in 1658 she returned to England. Behn’s time in Surinam was a pivotal development period in her life, as it was during this period that she acquired significant historical knowledge of the area, as well as personal knowledge of the African prince Oroonoko. Later in life this experience would be explored in her seminal novel Oroonoko (Hobby 1990).
After returning to England from Surinam she married a London merchant with a Dutch extraction. Her intelligence and extraordinary wit made her a favorite at the royal court. After her husband’s death Charles II appointed her to a position as a spy within Netherlands for the Dutch war. She proved to be an effective spy for England; her code name was “Astrea”, and she was also known as Agent one hundred