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Notion Of Power In 'orlando' And 'the Piano'

2204 words - 9 pages

The notion of power is presented in various ways in Woolf’s ‘Orlando ‘and Campion’s ‘The Piano’. This essay will compare these two texts and how they show power in different, yet similar ways. The first part of the essay analyzes the basic idea on gender roles of the Victorian and 19th century. The second part analyses Orlando aristocratic background and his ability to inherit riches. This is compared with Orlando as a woman who is unable to inherit. Thirdly, there will be a comparison on Orlando and the Piano, and how the women control the men. Lastly, the main points are summarized in the conclusion.

As both of the stories are set in the Victorian and 19th century, however, Orlando does begin at the Elizabethan period, yet it has a chapter set in the Victorian period. The concept of cultural expectations is present in both of the texts. In addition, cultural expectation played a vital role in the early periods. The expectations of men and women were fixed so to their time period. For instance, women were expected to be modest and take care of the household chores and children, since the men were expected to work and hold authority over the home. In other words, the concept of power was only present in male patriarchal rule; however, this notion of gender roles is challenged in these two texts.

In the first chapter of Orlando it gives a clear image of Orlando coming from a noble aristocratic upbringing. The notion of power is present in two different ways in Orlando, for instance, his noble upbringing gives him the power of authority. This is shown through his act of mutilating the ‘shrunken head of a moor:
“it- was in the act of slicing at the head of a Moor which swung from the rafters. It was the colour of an old football, and more or less shape of one,save for the sunken cheeks…Orlando’s father, or perhaps grandfather had struck it from the shoulders of a vast Pagan...Orlando’s fathers had ridden the fields asphodel, and stony fields, and fields watered by strange rivers, and they had struck many heads of many colours off many shoulders, and brought them back to hang from the rafters. So too would Orlando,he vowed. ‘”(1977:11)
This shows that he is conformed to follow his father and grandfather masculine and patriarchal role, due to his gender. However, his noble aristocratic status gives him the power to inherit land and homes. The imagery of the foreign lands shows he will be an adventure who will conquer countries. This indicates the type of masculine role he has to conform to. However, as a woman Orlando loses that advantage even though it is the same person.
Thus, the notion of inheritance is challenged in Orlando when he transforms into a woman. This brings difficulties as a woman. The reason for this is because as woman he is unable to inherit. However, as a man he has to hand over his wealth to his sons, who assume he is dead.
However, as a woman Orlando does carry a type of power for instance, the journey to...

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