Study Guide

Kew Gardens Man and the Natural World

By Virginia Woolf

Man and the Natural World

This is one of the most obvious, but also the most important, themes of "Kew Gardens." Woolf is pretty obsessed with giving us the most precise details about the flowers, grasses, trees, butterflies, and of course the snail. The language she uses to represent nature makes it seem almost like a vivid, impressionistic painting through which the characters walk. The natural world seems to inspire awe in not only the narrator, but also in the characters themselves. The gardens offer them an escape from city life and an opportunity to commune with nature. After reading this story, we might consider Virginia the Original Hippie. What a tree-hugger!

Questions About Man and the Natural World

  1. What kind of language is used to describe the natural world in "Kew Gardens"?
  2. How does the natural world affect the moods, thoughts, and behavior of the characters?                 
  3. Why does Woolf spend two significant paragraphs describing a snail?                    
  4. What's the relationship between the humans in the garden and the other creatures (butterflies, snail, etc.)?  

Chew on This

Nature has an unusual affect upon the characters, temporarily inspiring strange moods and reflections in them. 

The characters' movements are compared to the movements of butterflies, suggesting an affinity between the different creatures in the garden. 

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