Study Guide

Kew Gardens Flowers

By Virginia Woolf

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In "Kew Gardens," the flowers are sources of wonder and sites of immense natural beauty. Consider the opening sentence of the story:

From the oval-shaped flower-bed there rose perhaps a hundred stalks spreading into heart-shaped or tongue-shaped leaves half way up and unfurling at the tip red or blue or yellow petals marked with sports of colour raised upon the surface; and from the red, blue or yellow gloom of the throat emerged a straight bar, rough with gold dust and slightly clubbed at the end. (1)

This kind of description is a hallmark of Woolf's steadfast attention to detail, which helps us place the story in a modernist context. The narrator, like many of the characters, seems to be mesmerized by the beauty and complexity of nature. The young man drags Trissie toward their tea, but she longs to continue wandering amidst "orchids and cranes among wildflowers" (28). A sort of relationship is struck between the characters and the flowers. This is taken to its extreme with the senile old man who "bent his ear to it [a flower] and seemed to answer a voice speaking from it" (14). Ok, this guy is a little crazy, but his strange behavior exemplifies the way the characters' memories and thoughts are affected by the flowers.

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