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Orlando Virginia Woolf

One of Virginia Woolf’s most famous works in her novel Orlando, which was first published in 1928. It is believed that the work is a semi-autobiographical study of one her lovers, Vita Sackville-West. The work is highly regarded by critics as a feminist exploration of gender, as the main character changes from a man to a woman several times over the course of several centuries.

Orlando Virginia Woolf

The book opens with the story of the young man Orlando, born in Elizabethan England. He becomes the lover of both Queen Elizabeth and Sasha, a Russian princess. One of the more famous scenes takes place during the Frost Fair of 1608 and it said to represent the affair between Vita Sackville-West and Violet Trefusis.

After the affair with Sasha, Orlando begins writing The Oak Tree, an epic poem and is appointed ambassador to Constantinople by Charles II. It is in Constantinople that Orlando awakens one day to find himself transformed into a woman. On the journey back to England the now lady Orlando understands the power that being a woman is. Woolf is using the ge1nder change to suggest that differences between men and women are not based on biology, but are instead driven by society.

Orlando is able to change his/her behavior based both on the clothes (whether male or female) and adapt to the changes in society. By the time of the 20th century, Orlando wearies of constant change and ultimately decides to remain independent. Woolf is demonstrating her belief that women were equal to men, but held down by society.

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