Main Ideas

Key Facts

Main Ideas Key Facts

full title Orlando: a Biography

author Virginia Woolf

type of work Novel

genre Fictional biography

language English

time and place written Woolf wrote Orlando from her home in London, 1927–1928, between To the Lighthouse and The Waves

date of first publication October 11, 1928, the date given in the last line of the novel

publisher Hogarth Press

narrator Third-person, omniscient narrator; an unreliable "biographer" who changes style and tone to suit the changes of Orlando's life

climax The climax occurs when Orlando finds herself in the present day, 1928, and she is forced to acknowledge her own nature as a multitude of selves and experiences within one person.

protagonist Orlando

setting (time) 1588 to 1928

setting (place) Mostly in England (London and Kent), but 1660–1685 are spent on an excursion to Constantinople and the hills of Turkey

point of view Third-person omniscient; the narrator or "biographer" knows what each of the characters are thinking and inserts her own explanations into the text

falling action Orlando, having found love, now finds life in the present moment; standing by her oak tree, she looks over her manor and welcomes back her husband Shel.

tense Immediate past, real-time narration

foreshadowing Orlando's poem foreshadows that she will end up back at her oak tree; the appearance of Archduchess Harriet foreshadows that he will me a man; Orlando's troubles with the gypsies foreshadow that she will return to England.

tone Detached, philosophic, and poetic; although she attempts to include dates and facts making the book a real 'biography,' the narrator's work ends up as poetry.

themes Sex and gender, the differences between men and women; the quality of history; the 'spirit of the age;' time; interconnectedness; truth, fact, and poetry

motifs Poetry, dates, clothing, sex changes

symbols The oak tree, the clock, Orlando's manor house, clouds