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Essay about Meaningless Existence in Virginia Woolf's Kew Gardens

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Meaningless Existence in Virginia Woolf's Kew Gardens


"Kew Gardens," by Virginia Woolf, is skillfully developed and written in such a manner as to be jammed full of images, ideas, and possibilities. One of the many ideas found in the story is the presentation of human existence as meaningless, random, and haphazard. Indeed, throughout the story, many images, words, and even plot structure support the fact that the lives of the characters of the story are lives without meaning or direction. Woolf presents the reader with characters whose lives are noticeably blurry and unfocused, undefined and haphazard, lived without direction, and full of distraction and interruption. The characters' lives are lived in a haze, with meaningful existence eluding them. Evidence for this idea can be found throughout the story, both in the descriptive words Woolf uses and in the structure of the story.

The reoccurrence of the image of haze, or of hazy things, throughout the story provides a powerful beginning point. As the first set of characters exits the story, they are "soon diminished in size among the trees" and "half transparent as the sunlight and shade swam over their backs in large trembling irregular patches" (30). They are not seen as sturdy, solid human beings. The theme of haze is continued as Woolf discusses the "ponderous" elderly woman who first gazes at the flowers in the oval garden and "saw them as a sleeper waking from a heavy sleep sees a brass candlestick reflecting the light in an unfamiliar way" (33). Intangible images are further seen in the experience of the younger man who watches as "the mist very slowly rose and uncovered" (34) shapes which were at first indistinguishable. Finally, "one couple after another . . . w...


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...he realities of their lives or purposefully set a direction for their lives? How often had they settled for something other than what they truly desired in exchange for something less satisfying (if they ever even knew what they wanted in the first place)? Which of them had allowed themselves to be "drawn on" by whatever forces that were intentionally or unintentionally at play in their lives? Which of them had ever fought to achieve clear communication and understanding within their relationships? Which had struggled to see reality through the haze? Did any of them steel themselves against distractions? Unfortunately, from the evidence presented in the story, a reader would have to conclude that none of them attempted any of the above possibilities.

Work Cited

Woolf, Virginia. A Haunted House and Other Short Stories. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1944.


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