Monday, September 13, 2010

Orlando's Nature Sanctuary: No Longer a Future Heaven.

"She quickened her pace; she ran; she tripped; the tough heather roots flung her to the ground. Her ankle was broken. She could not rise. But there she lay content…” (182)."

With these words Orlando the woman escapes once again to her Never-Never Land beyond time and space. She lies in an English moor outside London and traverses decades and oceans alone, lying comfortably on her back. Anne McClintock might disagree, however, with the nature of Orlando’s so-called escape. Her chapter on gender and nationalism (Ch. 4 “No Longer in a Future Heaven”) describes an escape of a rather different sort, claiming that often through history, in literature as in nations, women
Haunt analysis as an elided shadow—deferred, displaced, and dis- remembered…and are thus effectively deferred to a no-where land, beyond time and place. (95)
When Orlando falls contented in her secret moor, then, it’s a bit shortsighted to consider the action a comfortable escape. Rather, she has been thrust there, like a dust mop set roughly in its place in the closet under the stairway. This is supported in the description of Orlando’s almost helter-skelter jaunt through the woods. The heather roots don’t coax her gently down, they fling her, even breaking her ankle so that she can’t rise back up. If Orlando is forced to find contentment in a place where there can be no real contentment, McClintock is justified. Her sanctuary, isolated from society as it is, is still a no-where land that can bring her nothing.
Further connection between Orlando and McClintock's text is provided, of course, by Orlando's remarkable ability to flit through time and place. I like McClintock's use of the word elide in her analysis. The term packs an underhanded implication: behind its dictionary definition, "to omit", stands the result of the omission, a slurring of something- often speech- or in Orlando's case, identity. McClintock is implying that women have not only been exiled into social no-where land, they have been denied a corporeal self they might call their own. Both an omission from society and a slurring of identity across time and place is readily visible in Orlando. As she lies fugitive in her wooded sanctuary, Orlando progresses, we might imagine by textual hints ("Tick-tock, tick-tock, so it hammered, so it beat" (183)) several years, perhaps even decades, through time; and as she does so, she significantly alters her life philosophy, insert: identity, ("I am nature's bride") unto passionate love with Shel (184). Though these events in a fictional novel are by definition quite unreal, a visible elision of Orlando the character is, according to McClintock, an everyday reality for women everywhere, and therefore something always worth a further look.

1 comment:

  1. You make some good points and I agree with your analysis of the quote with relevant research from the article. I can't get passed the judgement that Vita Sackville-West is Orlando. I can't imagine her being content with breaking her ankle and furthermore being satisfied with being trapped in this everyday reality.