Wednesday, 14 May 2014

As Orlando awoke 1 morning from uneasy dreams, he found himself transformed in his bed into a woman.

For the time being, I don't know what to make of Orlando's sudden sex change (a satire or a more 'literal' version of Freud's idea about the development of a feminine identity? an absurd situation in which the character is trapped, as in existentialist works? a grotesque change of perspective, change of role which forces the protagonist to rethink his/her own former views? a depiction of Vita's different sexual roles, the inspiration for "Orlando"? an exploration of gender and the differences between the 2 sexes? pure comedy? etc.)
1 thing I find striking is that Orlando, after a 7-day sleep, wakes up to find himself transformed into a woman and yet shows no sign of perturbation or confusion. Orlando doesn't even pay it much thought, but gets dressed (unisex clothes) and goes on with his/her life, and albeit leaving his/her place, does it as if in a trance and lives as if no change occurred. Such reaction is remarkably similar to Gregor's reaction when he turns into an insect in "The metamorphosis". 
Any chance Virginia Woolf thought of Franz Kafka when writing this passage? 
Or is it random? 
Or were they inspired by the same source? 


  1. Di,

    Interesting linking. I hadn't thought about Kafka's Metamorphosis when I read Orlando, but you are right. Neither seemed to be too upset or distraught over this impossible change. And, again, there was no attempt in either to provide an explanation. It was just something that happened, so might as well make the best of it and carry on.

    1. A couple of days and I still don't know how to reply to your comments. Haha.

    2. Di,

      I'm also unable to explain the strange behavior of the two characters. It's been a puzzle to me and also to others who have commented on Kafka's work.

    3. I don't feel that way about "The Metamorphosis". Gregor Samsa has always been treated like an insect, turning into a real one doesn't make much of a difference, which is why he, even as an insect, worries about being late for work instead of worrying about his body and his life after the transformation.
      That of course is also Kafka's joke. It's only when I read the story the 3rd time that I laughed. The guy's so deluded, and so he remains till his death.
      On the other hand, I am puzzled by Orlando's metamorphosis and reaction. Virginia Woolf may be making a point about the development of a feminine identity (or whatever, I don't know yet), but it's still weird that a guy wakes up, finds himself transformed into a woman, and doesn't question it.