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Orlando

Orlando

by Virginia Woolf

Orlando Themes

Little Words, Big Ideas

Identity

Orlando ages, travels, and changes gender. So what makes this a novel about one person? It isn't about just one person: Orlando reflects herself in Chapter 6, there are thousands of selves presente...

Life, Creation, and Existence

Always a theme with Virginia Woolf. And not in subtle ways, either. At one point Orlando explicitly wants "life and a lover." Orlando’s journey throughout the novel oscillates between a desir...

Memory and the Past

After "The Oak Tree" has been published in Chapter 6, Orlando is at loose ends. Random memories start floating up in her mind, and she can't keep track of their sequence. While she was still workin...

Society and Class

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 an...

Gender

Orlando does all kinds of work with gender. The novel explores social mores about marriage, children, and appropriate occupations for women. While Orlando must face increased discrimination from po...

Literature and Writing

Orlando? He (and then she) is a writer. Everything else is subordinate to this first aspect of his identity. But Orlando's ability to write depends on social conditions and on her relations with pe...

Time

Time is incredibly subjective in Orlando. The only way we can reliably tell the passage of time is based on changes in the monarchy, new inventions, and the biographer flat out telling us that time...

Love

We've already brought this out a bit in our "Character Roles" section on Shel and Sasha, but this novel has very clear ideas about what constitutes love. Love that's about pompous poetry and romant...

Marriage

We have a utopian model for a marriage presented in Orlando between Shel and Orlando. Both are androgynous and free-spirited, and neither seems to exert authority over the other. Woolf seems to bel...

Man and the Natural World

Orlando's first love is nature. When she changes gender and needs to get back to the basics, the first thing she does is travel with a gypsy band to Italy to live amidst the mountains and fields. N...

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