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Name: Dana Maroldi '12
Honors in: English
Hometown: Glen Ridge, N.J.
Major/minor: English/Business Management
Title of project: The Necessity of Dying: Violence and the Destruction of Self in Othello and Oroonoko
Project advisor: Dr. Martha Reid
Abstract or brief description: The similarities between the characters and plot of Shakespeare’s play Othello and Oroonoko, a novel by Aphra Behn, cannot go unnoticed. In the barest description of each plot, these stories are about two black males who become both slaves and generals, ending their tales by murdering their wives and then dying soon after the murders. The characters of Othello and Oroonoko, however, differ greatly in terms of development of self. Violence is an integral part of both character’s development, as both men are surrounded by violence through their shared occupations of general and from being in the bonds of slavery.
However, the manner in which Othello and Oroonoko use violence reveals their true humanity. Within the play, Othello uses violence mainly as a means to control his wife, Desdemona, because he believes she has been unfaithful to him. Unlike Othello, Oroonoko uses violence only when necessary and is able to communicate with his wife, Imoinda, creating an equal relationship between them. While both characters do murder their wives, Othello kills Desdemona out of rage, whereas Oroonoko kills Imoinda to prevent her from being tortured by colonists they have rebelled against. In Oroonoko’s case, he discusses with Imoinda the prospect of killing her, and she accepts dying for a cause against tyrannous colonists.
Both Othello and Oroonoko die violent deaths that represent “the necessity of dying:” the idea that, in order to keep their integrity of self, they must die. Othello, through his suicide, establishes himself as a much weaker character than Oroonoko, because his death becomes an act of cowardice, as he cannot accept punishment for the murder of Desdemona. Oroonoko is captured and tortured by colonists, making his murder an act of self-sacrifice, rather than Othello’s self-slaughter, dying a martyr and thereby preserving his integrity of self.
How did you get interested in your topic? I became interested in my topic through two classes I took with Dr. Reid: Dramatic Literature and the Moral Life and The British Novel. In the first class, I read Othello and in the second I read Oroonoko. I noticed many similarities between the two works and I wanted to begin a project to further this comparison.
Do you intend to research your topic further? If so, how? I do not intend to research this topic further academically. However, I do plan to continue to discover more about Oroonoko’s author, Aphra Behn, through reading and researching more about her, as she is such an inspiring and unique literary figure.
How did you benefit academically by conducting research/participating in honors? I benefited by making a serious commitment to a long-term project. This commitment inspired a different work ethic and determination than I had previously experienced. The amount of research I did for this project helped me improve my critical thinking skills, as I had to comb through a lot of information to find data that was relevant for my project. I mainly benefited from the writing and editing process because I now understand how I work as a writer.
How has the department (or faculty advisor) prepared you for the future? I feel as though the English department here at Moravian is a small, tight-knit family. When I go to the third floor of Zinzendorf Hall, I know there will be a professor who is going to be there with an encouraging word. I truly appreciate every member of the department as they have all shaped me academically in unique ways. I especially appreciate Dr. Reid, who, as my advisor for this project, reminded me that the future is exciting, not frightening, and that no matter the direction your life is going, you can always change course and try something new.
What advice do you have for other students interested in Honors? Choose a topic you’re very interested in and find an advisor who has similar interests. Read everything about your topic, even if you think it will not be 100 percent relevant to your project. Do all of your research during the first semester because it makes writing so much easier. Work on your project all the time, but try not to feel guilty when you’re not working on it or you’ll become overwhelmed. Find a group of friends who will support you, even after sleepless nights and complaints about your thesis. Even though you’ll need friends, the hardest part about working on this project for me was feeling lonely, as this is an entirely independent project, so you’ll need to find your own way to cope with your loneliness.
My future plans: My future plan is to begin an entry level job in New York City in publishing.