"Doesn't one always think of the past, in a garden with
men and women lying under the trees? Aren't they one's past, all that remains
of it, those men and women, those ghosts lying under the trees…one's happiness,
one's reality?" (6)
Eleanor seems to
suggest that ghosts of the past are sometimes all one knows of their current
reality—our past shapes our life in the present. This certainly seems to be the
case for some of the story's characters. What kind conflicting notions of "reality"
does the story draw out? Are their multiple different "realities" at
talking about spirits—the spirits of the dead, who, according to him, were even
now telling him all sort of odd things about their experiences in Heaven. (11)
The old man talking
to spirits clearly occupies a very different reality from the other characters.
Yet, he also shares the external reality of the garden with them. Which reality
is "real"? If we can't verify the presence of the spirits, does that
make the old man's "reality" less authentic? What determines the
validity of any given version of reality?
So the heavy woman came to a standstill opposite the
oval-shaped flower bed, and ceased even to pretend to listen to what the other
woman was saying. She stood there letting the words fall over her, swaying the
top part of her body slowly backwards and forwards, looking at the flowers. (18)
The woman looks
almost as crazy as the old man sounds. She's just chilling in her own world
here, her own particular reality in which the other woman's words cease to
matter. Is there a difference, then, between a character's "version of
reality" and their "interior world"? Are these things
fundamentally the same?
snail had now considered every possible method of reaching his goal without
going round the dead leaf or climbing over it. (19)
The snail's saga
throughout the story is a striking example of a creature that inhabits a
completely different reality from everyone else. He's not senile like the old
man; he's not even in a meditative trance like the woman. In fact, he occupies
the exact same physical environment as the other characters and yet, his world
looks completely different from theirs. What does this tell us about different "versions
Heavens, what were those shapes?—little white tables, and waitresses who looked
first at her and then at him; and there was a bill that he would pay with a
real two shilling piece, and it was real, all real, he assured himself,
fingering the coin in his pocket, real to everyone except to him and to her.
Why do you think the
young man has to reassure himself, repeatedly, that it's all real? Why does he
think things seem real to everyone except himself and Trissie? He obviously isn't
keen on what's going on with the old man and his spirit-flower friends. Pay
attention to how the word, "real," is being used here. How does it
inform the concept of reality?
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
descriptions of scene often have an impressionistic quality. People become
drops and splotches of color; they dissolve and waver, almost as though they
inhabit a painting rather than the concrete world. Is this just a pretty way of
describing things, or do you think the narrative's depiction of the world
itself becomes a certain version of its own reality, especially in these
descriptions? If the narrator herself only sees one version of reality, what
does this mean for the objectivity or subjectivity with which scenes are
presented to us?