Sasha is a character who first awakens in Orlando a feeling of despair. Until the point that Sasha deserts him, Orlando has easily had everything he could have wanted. Born into a noble family, and chosen by the Queen at an early age to have great fortune and status, Orlando does not want for anything. But Sasha, an exotic, mysterious princess, changes Orlando's complacency about life. Like all of the other characters, her importance in the novel is measured by the effect she has on the protagonist, Orlando.
Significantly, Sasha awakens in Orlando a deep sexual desire. Even before he knows her gender, he is drawn to her. She moves athletically and wears androgynous clothes; Orlando is attracted to Sasha as an individual, entirely separate from what her gender is at the time. Sasha's exoticism is compounded by her foreign tongue and deceptive manner. Orlando can never be sure exactly what she is thinking, and he feels especially vulnerable when she speaks to the sailor in Russian. As the novel moves forward and Orlando matures, he is better able to understand Sasha and the feminine point of view. Sasha is Orlando's first real experience with love, lust, and female nature.
Sasha's character is thought to be based on Violet Trefusis, a lover of Vita's from 1918–1920.