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Themes

Orlando does all kinds of work with gender. The novel explores social mores about marriage, children, and appropriate occupations for women. While Orlando must face increased discrimination from poets and society once she becomes a woman writer, she also learns the value of writing from nature. Orlando's writing as a man is pretentious and abstract, and it seems to be the quality of women's writing (in this novel) that brings out essential truths from nature and from lived experience. (Check out "Characters" for more on this subject.)

Questions About Gender

  1. Could Orlando have been a woman (or a man) throughout the entire novel? How would the meaning of the novel change if the protagonist’s gender remained fixed?
  2. How might the novel be different if Orlando was first a woman and then a man? Same results? Different ones?
  3. Are there characters in the novel whose genders are unambiguous and unquestioned? If so, what purpose do those characters serve in the story?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Orlando’s sex change functions as a means of allowing him to access his androgynous qualities.

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