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Kure 1Fatima KureProfessor CaladoEnglish 22018 May 2018Orlando’s IdentityOrlando: A Biographyby Virginia Woolf is a book centered around the life of Orlando, the primary interest of the narrator in the book, whose job is to tell Orlando’s life story as truthfuland accurately as possible. The story spans over 300 years and Orlando ages only thirty-six years. Orlando’s character is complex and her/his personality is challenging to understand. Through the phase of time, she undergoes many changes in her life. One of the major changes is the transition from a male to a female. Through Orlando’s representation as a man and later as a woman, Woolf shows that the idea of gender change serves as a means of allowing Orlando to access and understand her true identity in terms of love and literature.As a man, Orlando’s gender seems debatable in a sense that her essential self (gender) is never really clear. Orlando’s identity is questionable even from the start of the story. The narratorbegins the biography by writing, “He---for there could be no doubt of his sex, though the fashionof the time did something to disguise it---was in the act of slicing at the head of a Moor which swung from the rafters (Woolf 1.11)”. In other words, the narrator is saying although no one can doubt Orlando’s sex, the fashion of the time did something to hide it. From the start, the narrator confuses the readers by giving off a questionable description of Orlando. He seems to be foreshadowing some sort of gender conflict in Orlando’s story. He continues with this confusion throughout the first chapter by also giving a physical description of Orlando. He wrote, “The red of the cheeks was covered with peach down; the down on the lips was only a little thicker than
Kure 2the down on the cheeks. The lips themselves were short and slightly drawn back over teeth of an exquisite and almond whiteness (Woolf 1.12)”. He adds on by writing, “we must admit that he had eyes like drenched violets, so large that the water seemed to have brimmed in them and widened them; and a brow like the swelling of a marble dome pressed between the two blank medallions which were his temples (Woolf 1.12-13)”. Here the narrator is describing Orlando as a man with red cheeks, short lips that are slightly drawn back. Then he continues by using similes to compare Orlando’s eyes to drenched violets and his brows to the swelling of a marble dome. This is very inaccurate because the narrator is describing Orlando with female features when he clearly said in the beginning that Orlando is undoubtedly a man. This makes it challenging to really understand Orlando’s identity and it also shows how Orlando might not even know who he is at this time of the story.