Orlando Literary Elements



Setting and Context

England and Turkey between the 16th century and the year 1928.

Narrator and Point of View

The story is told from the biographer's point of view with objective, third-person narration.

Tone and Mood

Tragic; satirical.

Protagonist and Antagonist

The protagonist is Orlando. The antagonist can be considered to be the social rules and customs to which Orlando can’t conform.

Major Conflict

The major conflict is the difference between Orlando’s desire and what is accepted by the society he/she lives in.


The novel reaches its climax when Orlando revisits the oak tree near her home.


The presence of two androgynous characters at the beginning—Orlando and Sasha—foreshadows the change in genders that will occur later on in the novel.


There are many uses of understatement in the novel, especially with regard to Orlando's change in gender and incredibly long lifespan. Furthermore, Orlando is understated about many historical events that happen during his/her lifespan, such as when she mentions in passing that a war occurred.


In the fourth chapter, the narrator makes some allusions towards the social and political context that existed in London during the Victorian times. During that chapter, the narrator describes Orlando’s transition from male to female and also some differences Orlando noticed between the way a female is regarded and the way a male is treated. In this chapter, through Orlando’s voice, the narrator makes some allusions towards the restrictions the Victorian society imposed on females. In addition, references are made to many authors from 16th-20th-century England and their works.


Nature and city scenes are described in great detail. The images of the city change over the course of the book as centuries pass, while the scenes of nature change very little, underscoring themes of time and change.


The narrator tries to give the impression that she will write an autobiography about a young man whom she admires while simultaneously giving the impression that she will try to avoid getting too personal. This proves to be a paradox because, on numerous occasions, the narrator tries to shape the reader’s impression about Orlando by telling them how to think about certain actions made by him.


A parallel can be drawn between Orlando and Sasha in order to emphasize the characteristics Orlando has. In comparison with Sasha, Orlando is softer and has a feminine side. Orlando lacks the power Sasha has and also lacks the strong character she has. Through this parallel, the narrator conveys the idea that Orlando has more femininity in him than a real female.

Metonymy and Synecdoche

In the fifth chapter, Orlando thinks that she must start to wear a crinoline because that is the custom for pregnant ladies of her time. She bases her belief on the fact that the Queen herself started to wear one and that it was the custom of the time to try to hide that a woman is pregnant for as long a time as possible. Because of this, one can assume that the Queen is used here to refer to every female in that time who followed the unwritten rules of the time.


Nature, books, and the qualities of modesty, chastity, and purity are personified.