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by Virginia Woolf

Orlando Theme of 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 has passed. If we did not have these clues, we would be dependent on Orlando’s sense of time, which sometimes places more importance on a single minute than a single decade. This reflects the way we actually experience time; an hour with a pretty girl may seem like a minute, while spending a minute with your hand on the stove may seem like an hour.

Questions About Time

  1. How does Woolf treat the passage of time in Orlando? Is it disconcerting to have centuries pass by so quickly in the novel or did you accept it at face value? Why?
  2. Since the novel isn’t told in perfect chronological order or, in fact, by using time in the conventional sense, how does Woolf narrate the story? More specifically, how does she transition from one scene to another? Do these stylistic choices reflect anything deeper?
  3. Was it necessary for the story to span four centuries? We gave you some of our thoughts in the Setting section, but what are yours?

Chew on This

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

In Orlando, time passes most slowly when Orlando is engaged in thought.

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