Orland by Janet Woolf

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The effect marriage in Virginia Woolf’s Orlando has upon the modern individual will be the focus of this essay, whilst also considering the role the wedding ring plays in defining the terms of marriage. Woolf portrays Orlando as a modern individual largely because she is free from a number of social conventions and familial pressures other women of the time are subjected to. Despite this, it is the pressure of marriage that she cannot escape: even after she has married Shelmerdine, Orlando is thinking of ways to live her life as before. In contrast to her statement of being forced to consider ‘the most desperate of remedies, which was to yield completely and submissively to the spirit of the age, and take a husband’ (121) Orlando is…show more content…
Shanley notes she ‘denounced the obliteration under the common law of a woman’s legal personality upon marriage, which made it impossible for a woman to hold property in her own name. She also condemned a proposed divorce law that would have lent statutory sanction to the sexual double standard by making it possible for husbands to divorce their wives, but not wives their husbands’ (22) The blatant unfairness of these laws is reflected in Woolf’s description that at the turn of the century ‘all was darkness, all was doubt, all was confusion’. (111) Evidently Woolf does not agree with women’s position within the marriage laws: the whole scenario of Orlando succumbing to pressure highlights the lack of rationality regarding marriage and the way it was regarded in the nineteenth century.

Woolf displays marriage as a necessity for women in terms of property yet in one sense portrays the union as something that does not have to alter lifestyle dramatically. Whilst Orlando notes that married pairs were ‘somehow stuck together, couple after couple’ she is not subjected to this fate, with a husband who ‘was always sailing round Cape Horn’. (130) Her life is altered more by pretending to be married than when she actually

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