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Themes

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

  1. Why does Orlando continue to support Greene financially after being mocked by him so badly?
  2. What effect does Orlando’s class have on his (or her) character?
  3. To what extent does Orlando conform to the societies that she lives in?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Orlando refuses to capitulate to society’s demands, but instead negotiates with them.

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