Orlando's character is a tool to expose the shallowness of social life and its restrictions. Being of high birth, Orlando has a lot of social mobility, and can move freely amongst both the upper and lower classes. As a woman in England, she experiences the high excitement of London society – until she realizes that it is essentially hollow and insubstantial. Woolf also raises the issue of gender and class. It turns out that, when Orlando's a man, he has a thing for women of lower classes that gets him in trouble with his patron, Queen Elizabeth. But there's a neat reversal later in the novel, when female Orlando befriends London prostitutes whom she might have patronized when she was a guy. Together, they form a community of women that operates outside hollow London high society.
Questions About Society and Class
- Why does Orlando continue to support Greene financially after being mocked by him so badly?
- What effect does Orlando’s class have on his (or her) character?
- To what extent does Orlando conform to the societies that she lives in?
Chew on This
Orlando refuses to capitulate to society’s demands, but instead negotiates with them.