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Orlando | Study Guide

Virginia Woolf

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Orlando | Discussion Questions 51 - 51


In what ways is Woolf's character Orlando like and unlike a hero?

The word "hero" is commonly used in literature to describe the protagonist, or main character, but not all literary heroes are truly heroic. Heroism is generally defined as the act of doing something for the greater good. Because of this disparity in definitions, it's possible to say the character of Orlando is and isn't a hero all at the same time. Orlando is a hero in that he is the main character of Orlando. He (and later, she) fits into the trope of the Classical Hero, who has a special talent or attribute but is still equal to everyone in their literary world. Orlando's attribute, of course, is living for hundreds of years and changing genders halfway through. Orlando does not readily fit into the category of heroic character because although the reader is told about sword fights and battles at sea, acts of selflessness for the greater good aren't actually shown. Orlando is, in many ways, a selfish character. He does things for his own pleasure: kissing another in view of the queen, ignoring his betrothed to spend time with Sasha, and leaving Constantinople at the first sign of trouble. In the same vein, female Orlando keeps her revelation that gender does not impact one's inner self to herself. Instead of publicly proselytizing equality, she uses her knowledge to create a life that ensures her own happiness.

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