by Virginia Woolf
Analysis: Narrator Point of View
Who is the narrator, can she or he read minds, and, more importantly, can we trust her or him?
First person (Central Narrator): The Biographer
In Orlando, Woolf is imitating and mocking real biographers. The biographer that narrates Orlando does everything a regular biographer would do, only this biographer is frequently at a loss because Woolf puts this narrator in situations that other biographers would never face. More specifically, biographers are most invested in chronicling actions. Orlando’s biographer follows him around like a faithful puppy, writing down everything Orlando does. But when Orlando sits down to write an award-winning poem, the biographer doesn’t have anything to say! Bored and full of self-pity, the biographer resorts to looking out the window to see if there’s anything interesting to write about. Moments like these in the book remind us that although all the attention is on Orlando, it’s really the biographer who’s controlling what we see and adding helpful bits of commentary along the way.
As for the other, peripheral narrator, he doesn’t have a name, but he occasionally takes over the narration to provide insight and information of which the biographer would either disapprove or is not privy to.