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