by Virginia Woolf
Orlando Memory and the Past Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph)
No one need wonder that Orlando started, pressed her hand to her heart, and turned pale. For what more terrifying revelation can there be than that it is the present moment? That we survive the shock at all is only possible because the past shelters us on one side and the future on another. (6.56)
The present moment is incredibly terrifying and isolating – can you imagine how it would feel to exist purely in the moment without the past and future to help define you? That’s what we think this passage is getting at.
Now the lift gave a little jerk as it stopped at the first floor; and she had a vision of innumerable coloured stuffs flaunting in a breeze from which came distinct, strange smells; and each time the lift stopped and flung its doors open, there was another slice of the world displayed with all the smells of that world clinging to it. She was reminded of the river off Wapping in the time of Elizabeth, where the treasure ships and the merchant ships used to anchor. How richly and curiously they had smelt! How well she remembered the feel of rough rubies running through her fingers when she dabbled them in a treasure sack! (6.57)
This passage is a great illustration of how Woolf uses moments in the ‘present time’ as a springboard for the mind to take a trip down Memory Lane.
‘I take up a handbag and I think of an old bumboat woman frozen in the ice. Someone lights a pink candle and I see a girl in Russian trousers. When I step out of doors--as I do now,' here she stepped on to the pavement of Oxford Street, 'what is it that I taste? Little herbs. I hear goat bells. I see mountains. Turkey? India? Persia?' Her eyes filled with tears. (6.66)
This passage functions similarly to the one above; it shows how Orlando’s past memories infuse her present existence.