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YMMV / Orlando: A Biography

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  • Adaptation Displacement: Of a sort, as it's more likely that people would know of Orlando due to the character's role in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen rather than this novel wherein the character originated.
  • Big-Lipped Alligator Moment: The arrival of Purity, Chastity, and Modesty who show up randomly in Turkey with no foreshadowing, have apparently no effect on Orlando sleeping, and then leave and are barely mentioned in passing again. It could be considered symbolic, until they throw him/her some clothes.
  • Fair for Its Day: This is often referenced as an early cornerstone of queer literature, as one of the first works to explore ideas of bisexuality and gender identity, but it's somewhat lacking from a modern perspective. When Orlando is a man, he only has affairs with women, and as a woman only has affairs with men, and thus remains "straight". This was likely so that Woolf, who was bisexual herself, could write about her own experiences loving both men and women without falling afoul of British anti-obscenity laws. It also has a concept of gender that is inescapable tied to biological sex, as it is assumed that altering his body would automatically make Orlando identify as a woman.
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    • Relatedly, while the gender and sexuality elements would have been astonishly progressive in 1928, the treatment of race and non-European cultures is... a lot less so. The book's very first scene shows a young Orlando playfully hacking at the decapitated head of a Moor his father has killed, and racist stereotypes (and even a couple narratorial uses of the n-word) crop up here and there throughout the book. The section in which Orlando becomes an ambassador in Turkey and then runs away with a Romani band (not the term Woolf uses) is also steeped in Orientalist stereotypes, though Woolf occasionally tries to subvert these as well.
  • Padding: To quote:
    It was now November. After November, comes December. Then January, February, March, and April. After April comes May. June, July, August follow. Next is September. Then October, and so, behold, here we are back at November again, with a whole year accomplished.
    • Although it makes sense in context, all is vanity, it does seem like Woolf is running out of ideas nearing the end.


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