by Virginia Woolf
Orlando Man and the Natural World Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph)
[Orlando] forgot the frozen waters or night coming or the old woman or whatever it was, and would try to tell her--plunging and splashing among a thousand images which had gone as stale as the women who inspired them--what she was like. Snow, cream, marble, cherries, alabaster, golden wire? None of these. She was like a fox, or an olive tree; like the waves of the sea when you look down upon them from a height; like an emerald; like the sun on a green hill which is yet clouded--like nothing he had seen or known in England. Ransack the language as he might, words failed him. He wanted another landscape, and another tongue. (1.39)
Orlando uses images from nature to describe Sasha and his love for her, yet she is so foreign that he cannot use English language or the English countryside to adequately describe her.
Two things alone remained to him in which he now put any trust: dogs and nature; an elk-hound and a rose bush. The world, in all its variety, life in all its complexity, had shrunk to that. Dogs and a bush were the whole of it. So feeling quit of a vast mountain of illusion, and very naked in consequence, he called his hounds to him and strode through the Park.
So long had he been secluded, writing and reading, that he had half forgotten the amenities of nature, which in June can be great. When he reached that high mound whence on fine days half of England with a slice of Wales and Scotland thrown in can be seen, he flung himself under his favourite oak tree and felt that if he need never speak to another man or woman so long as he lived; if his dogs did not develop the faculty of speech; if he never met a poet or a Princess again, he might make out what years remained to him in tolerable content. (2.33 – 2.34)
When Orlando is depressed, he turns to nature, which gives his life a certain kind of stability.
They began to suspect that she had other beliefs than their own, and the older men and women thought it probable that she had fallen into the clutches of the vilest and cruellest among all the Gods, which is Nature. Nor were they far wrong. The English disease, a love of Nature, was inborn in her, and here, where Nature was so much larger and more powerful than in England, she fell into its hands as she had never done before. (3.49)
Love of nature is defined as an English characteristic, supporting the notion that nationality is a large component of Orlando’s identity. Yet it is actually the foreign countryside that appeals to and unlocks this very English sensibility. We can draw a parallel to the ways in which a gender switch allows Orlando to unlock the innate androgyny within.