This blog is a combination of information compiled as an element of a seminar course revolving around Virginia Woolf.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Kew Gardens

Reflection of relations between Kew Gardens, The Mark on the Wall, and Modern Fiction

When brainstorming what to write for this particular blog entry on Kew Gardens, I laughed to myself trying to select one particular aspect of the story on which to focus. There is not one individual instance in the story during which a specific thought or idea jumped out at me, but that is probably because Kew Gardens stirs a constant revelation of thoughts within one’s mind. Not knowing where to begin, I tried to find a way to connect the three stories we have read within the scope of the course so far. In Kew Gardens and The Mark on the Wall, the most obvious connection between the stories is the focus of the stories themselves. In both, the plot only moves due to the snail. I found this interesting because when thinking about a snail, one normally envisions something that is immobile or very slow, but in fact within the realm of Woolf’s work, the snail is the portion of the story that makes everything happen. The snail shows the reader what they “need” to see and keeps the plot moving (especially in Kew Gardens, though Woolf’s constant readdressing the snail on the wall keeps the course of events flowing in The Mark on the Wall as well).

Woolf’s choice to use the snail in both of these stories seemed to be a very deliberate one so I started to ask myself why exactly this was. The only thought concerning snails that came to mind was “a snails pace,” which is a phrase often used to describe someone who is very slow or a process that is tedious and sometimes inefficient. After thinking of this stereotype associated with snails, I began to see a little of Woolf’s personality shine through within her work. It seems clear to me that she chose the animal portrayed in the stories to be a snail simply because it is a slow creature. As she explained in Modern Fiction, the process by which she wants one to engage is a tedious one. It requires looking beyond the surface level and diving into the depths of one’s own thoughts and feelings. Since this was an unconventional method of discovery, Woolf seemed to be using the snail to incorporate a smart-alleck tone into the stories. She knew the reputations of snails, but also predicted the resistance that would come with her unconventional method of thinking. By having the snail control the story, Woolf shows that her method of thinking triumphs others. By taking time to really “see” and interpret the world, one is in the position of the snail and thus has a better outlook and control over their own life. This may sound a little philosophical and like a stretch to some people, but I was very interested in why Woolf chose the snail as her point of focus and I feel this could be one of many explanations for the choice.

Aside from the snail, another point of focus I found within Kew Gardens was when Woolf describes the two women walking through the gardens. One of the women stops to look at the flowers and Woolf states, “ She stood there letting the words fall over her, swaying the top part of her body slowly backwards and forwards, looking at the flowers.” For me, this specific instance really tied the connection between modern art and literature. Specifically, it reminded me of in class when Dr. Sparks described swaying back and forth while looking at a piece of art because one becomes so lost in the brush stroke and color pattern of the painting. I thought this connection was interesting and really helped develop the similarities shared between artwork and literature of the same time period.

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