Study Guide

Kew Gardens Isolation

By Virginia Woolf

Isolation

Though many of the characters in "Kew Gardens" wander together in groups or pairs, they are also often lost in their own individual worlds. Some, like the married couple and the old man, are isolated from others because they are so preoccupied with memories of the past. The working-class women seem to be friends, but they eventually stop listening to each other as the flowers start to mesmerize the stout woman, who is either really bored or easily distracted. Even the young couple, who seem very romantically interested in each other, are still very alone in each other's presence. Practically all the characters are absorbed in their own thoughts and alienated from those around them. Just look at the little snail—he's on his own in the garden, too. The point here is that, despite the communal quality of this setting, Woolf's story emphasizes all the different ways in which people remain alienated from each other. For each character, there is the external world of the garden but also the internal world of the mind, which each person inhabits more or less alone. 

Questions About Isolation

  1. Is there a relationship between the theme of isolation and the story's setting in a garden?
  2. What do you think Woolf means to emphasize by making all the characters isolated at various points?                   
  3. What different types of isolation does the story represent?
  4. Does Woolf suggest any possibility of resolving the characters' loneliness? 

Chew on This

Isolation is a consistent feature of the characters in "Kew Gardens," emphasizing the ways in which people are caught in their own worlds even in a social setting like the gardens.

Woolf's characters are often absorbed in their own thoughts and memories, but Woolf also suggests the possibilities for connection and intimacy. 

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