Study Guide

Stout Woman in Kew Gardens

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Stout Woman

This unnamed woman, described as "stout and ponderous" (15) and "of the lower middle class" (15) appears with a female companion. Both women are fascinated by the old man's eccentric behavior, especially because he seems to belong to the upper class.

Like most people of their station they were frankly fascinated by any signs of eccentricity betokening a disordered brain, especially in the well-to-do. (15)

With this bit of information, we learn that this character is probably a working-class woman and that she enjoys the spectacle of eccentricity. She exchanges a "queer, sly look" (15) with her companion as they listen in on the old man's ranting and try to piece it together. Talk about nosy—but then again, we can't really blame her, we'd want to listen in on the old man too. In fact, we sort of already are just by reading this story.

As she listens to "the pattern of falling words," the woman falls into a meditative state, staring at the flowers in the oval-shaped flowerbed (the very flowerbed described at the beginning of the story). Though she clearly has some sort of friendship with the nimble woman, she "cease[s] even to pretend to listen to what the other woman was saying." Just as the old man is far away in his own world, she too is far away in her own. Again, Woolf hints at isolation and alienation even in the midst of companionship and sociability. Don't overlook the disorienting effect nature has on her too: the beauty of the flowers almost draws her into a trance. You are getting very sleepy.

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