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Human Nature: Comparative Analysis Essay

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Updated: Apr 23rd, 2019

Aphra Behn lived between 1640 and 1689. He is most known for his popular novel titled Oroonoko that was written in 1688 based on his trip to Surinam. First, he underscored the fact that he was a famous author by going against the ideas of Aristotle on fiction. Aristotle perceived fiction as an imitation of nature.

He was of the view that there is a difference between fiction and history because the latter is concerned with what should be happening while the former is simply a collection of events implying that it does not have a begging and an end. The author is against slavery because it was dehumanizing and discriminative in nature.

Traders in Ghana were simply concerned with accumulating wealth without necessarily considering the nature of business and its effects on the society. Based on this, he was of the view that human beings are always calculative because they work so hard to satisfy their needs without considering the wishes and the desires of others (Behn 37).

Even though the narrator went against the views of Aristotle on fiction, he appreciated the fact that hierarchy exists among human beings whereby the monarchy does not want its power to be interfered with in society. In his view, legitimate authority should be derived from the people since the powers of the monarchs are always destructive because they are used in a way that is inconsistent with the demands of the majority.

Behn published his works at the time when Britain was undergoing constitutional reforms, with King Charles I trying to bring in a constitutional monarch, but with no success. Hobbes published his works on the Leviathan soon afterwards when the monarch was restored.

The views of Behn on governance and human nature were based on the Aristotelian writings. Aristotle had advised that politics is illogical since society is organized in the same way as the family and each unit is assigned a specific role to play.

Therefore, hierarchy should be respected because family members cannot have similar powers, as the father is often considered the head of the family while the mother is charged with the role of taking care of the family members.

Based on this, it is noted that Behn expected society to be stratified based on gender, age, and social position meaning that the most powerful should be given the role of leading while the less privileged should respect the authority and support it. For Hobbes, the existence of a strong centralized government was preferred, but its leaders had to be elected directly by the citizens (Hobbes 22).

In other words, Hobbes supported a democratic system of government whereby the majority should be allowed to rule, but the minority should have a say. In his novel, Behn suggested that Prince Oroonoko had to be given special treatment, even though he was a slave.

In this case, the prince will never lose his powers, irrespective of whether he is in jail or not. In his view, a leader will always remain a leader even when conditions are extreme, something that goes against democracy, which suggests that power has to be shared equally (Schmitt and Schwab 88).

The novel promotes monarchy and the status quo as demonstrated in one of the scenarios where he separates Oroonoko from the rest of slaves.

The author defended the culture of the Coromanti people who were viewed in other places as uncivilized barbarians. This was mainly because they engaged in trade and accepted multilingualism. The region was not colonized because its people were aware of their rights. Slaves were acquired through war, but its people never sold their sons and daughters to foreigners.

Once captured, slaves would be treated in the same way as animals because they were considered prisoners of war. In this regard, human nature was brutal and inconsiderate because it was indifferent to the sufferings of others, something that Hobbes agreed with because he also noted that life in the state of nature is short-lived and nasty, as there is no Leviathan to unite and lead people.

Human needs drive an individual to act either positively or negatively, and if appetites are not quenched, chances are high that an individual will feel pain (Iwanisziw and Southerne 59). Therefore, human beings are always under pressure to overcome desires.

An individual acts according to his or her beliefs, principles, and values. In this case, human beings are free to do as they desire and any attempt to control them would result to resistance. Unlike Behn, Hobbes disapproved the monarchs and preferred a democratic government because it represents the interests of the majority.

However, Benh shares his view on the selfishness of human beings because they always play a zero sum game whereby another person loses for the other to gain. The comparison has both ethical and cultural implications because it expresses the views of two great writers on the human nature and politics. For instance, they help in explaining what ought to be done in the political arena.

Works Cited

Behn, Aphra. Oroonoko or the Royal Slave. Boston: MobileReference.com, 2010. Print.

Hobbes, Thomas. Leviathan. Peterborough: Broadview Press, 2011. Print.

Iwanisziw, Susan, and Southerne, Thomas. Oroonoko: Adaptations and Offshoots. Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2005. Print.

Schmitt, Carl, and Schwab, George. The Leviathan in the State Theory of Thomas Hobbes: Meaning and Failure of a Political Symbol. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008. Print.

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