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by Virginia Woolf

Orlando Identity Quotes

How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph)

Quote #4

For though these are not matters on which a biographer can profitably enlarge it is plain enough to those who have done a reader's part in making up from bare hints dropped here and there the whole boundary and circumference of a living person; can hear in what we only whisper a living voice; can see, often when we say nothing about it, exactly what he looked like; know without a word to guide them precisely what he thought--and it is for readers such as these that we write--it is plain then to such a reader that Orlando was strangely compounded of many humours--of melancholy, of indolence, of passion, of love of solitude, to say nothing of all those contortions and subtleties of temper which were indicated on the first page, when he slashed at a dead nigger's head; cut it down; hung it chivalrously out of his reach again and then betook himself to the windowseat with a book. (2.8)

We can extrapolate Orlando’s thoughts and feelings from "bare hints."

Quote #5

Orlando had become a woman--there is no denying it. But in every other respect, Orlando remained precisely as he had been. The change of sex, though it altered their future, did nothing whatever to alter their identity. Their faces remained, as their portraits prove, practically the same. His memory--but in future we must, for convention's sake, say 'her' for 'his,' and 'she' for 'he'--her memory then, went back through all the events of her past life without encountering any obstacle. (3.42)

This passage refutes the idea that Orlando’s identity changes after he becomes a woman. This passage encourages us to look elsewhere for the possible meaning and effects of the sex change, and hints that there may be none at all – although we think there are.

Quote #6

She had been a gloomy boy, in love with death, as boys are; and then she had been amorous and florid; and then she had been sprightly and satirical; and sometimes she had tried prose and sometimes she had tried drama. Yet through all these changes she had remained, she reflected, fundamentally the same. She had the same brooding meditative temper, the same love of animals and nature, the same passion for the country and the seasons. (5.14)

Here we have a more specific delineation of the ways in which identity is fluid and the ways in which it is not. Look at the specific details in this passage and try to build a portrait of exactly what can change in a person and what stays the same. How can she be amorous and florid while at the same time still being brooding?

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