Study Guide

Kew Gardens Tone

By Virginia Woolf

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Observant/Curious, Awe-inspired


The narrator displays an immensely observant and curious tone. He or she is clearly interested in the parsing out the most intricate details of the scene, and remains attentive to every nuance and shade. Whenever a new character approaches the flowerbed, the narrative immediately turns to focus on them. For instance, a description of the snail breaks off as soon as the young couple appears:

He [the snail] had just inserted his head in the opening and was taking stock of the high brown roof and was getting used to the cool brown light when two other people came past outside on the turf. This time they were both young, a young man and a young woman. (19)

The narrative proceeds to describe the couple, their conversations, and interactions. The narrator's sensitivity to every feature and change of the scene lends the narrative a distinctly alert quality. If you ask us, it sounds like someone's been drinking a little too much coffee.


As we've noted, the narrative is also incredibly preoccupied with the natural beauty of the scene and the complexity of life in this one corner of the world. To this extent, the narrator relates a sense of wonder and awe in their descriptions. Consider the tone here:

Yellow and black, pink and snow white, shapes of all these colours, men, women, and children were spotted for a second upon the horizon, and then, seeing the breadth of yellow that lay upon the grass, they wavered and sought shade beneath the trees, dissolving like drops of water in the yellow and green atmosphere. (29)

What a scene. We're left feeling impressed and amazed by the spectacle because the narrator clearly is too. 

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