Study Guide

Kew Gardens Dragonfly

By Virginia Woolf

Dragonfly

The dragonfly appears in the married man's reflections alongside the silver shoe buckle. He remembers that when he was proposing to Lily, a "dragonfly kept circling round us: how clearly I see the dragonfly and her shoe with the square silver buckle" (3). While he associates the shoe buckle with Lily, he associates the dragonfly with his own passion:

My love, my desire, were in the dragonfly; for some reason I thought that if it settled there, on that leaf, the broad one with the red flower in the middle of it, if the dragonfly settled on the leaf she would say 'Yes' at once. But the dragonfly went round and round: it never settled anywhere. (3)

That's quite a bit of meaning attached to a little dragonfly. Consider, though, that for the man, the dragonfly symbolizes the passion of his youth, a passion that, like the dragonfly, never settled but moved on to someone else. The man seems to be nostalgic for this memory, but he's also content with how things turned out:

It never settled anywhere—of course not, happily not, or I shouldn't be walking here with Eleanor and the children. (3)

After this, you'll never look at dragonflies the same way again—and be careful if they land on you; it could mean someone's got their eye on you.