In the first chapter of the novel, the narrator presents the effect that the image of London, watched from afar, has on Orlando. For him, that image is linked to his poetic inspiration, and it evokes certain feelings like happiness and content. This image is returned to throughout the book as a way to chart the passing of time and changes in England's culture.
The description the narrator offers about Orlando doesn’t create the image of a masculine man, but rather of an androgynous person. He is described as having soft features that go hand in hand with his personality and a grace that is more suitable for a woman. Because of these characteristics, he attracts the attention of those around him who are intrigued by his physical appearance. When Orlando becomes a woman, she is still able to pass for a man when she dresses in masculine fashion, and people are still enamored with her appearance.
While Orlando is described as being almost a female, Sasha, a Russian princess, is the complete opposite. When Orlando first sees her skating on the lake, he is unsure whether the figure he sees is a man or a woman, but Orlando is attracted by the power and grace she exhibits. For him, the image he associates with Sasha is that of a powerful person, something that he isn’t. The description the narrator offers ofSasha is important because it represents everything that Orlando isn’t.
Orlando is often described as being melancholic, and he contemplates life in unusual places. He sits on hills outside major cities or among graves and crypts, and it is there where he finds the answer to his questions. The narrator creates the image of the romantic hero, an image predominant during the Romantic period. This also creates the impression that Orlando doesn’t belong in the time he lives in—a time that forgot how to appreciate the importance of genuine feelings and emotions.
Orlando Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Orlando is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.