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One way of viewing this perplexing short story is to take its final paragraph as the starting point and to see the tale as a reflection on modern society and the way that the world of the machine and industry dominates, creating an existence where individuals (such as the ones we see in this story) are isolated and alienated from each other. Note how the story ends:
But there was no silence; all the time the motor omnibuses were turnin their wheels and changing their gear; like a vast nest of Chinese boxes all of wrought steel turning ceaselessly one within another the city murmured; on the top of which the voices cried aloud and the petals of myriads of flowers flshed their colours into the air.
The simile describing industrial society as a "vast nest of Chinese boxes" presents a rather sinister view of human society that makes us think of the old man's invention to listen to the voices of dead husbands. Both present Modernism in a way that severs some kind of connection that humans have both with their natural world and with each other. Kew Gardens is, after all, a man-made environment rather than a natural phenomenon, and perhaps one way of reading this story is to see it as a reflection on the way that Modernism has produced a sense of disconnection and dislocation in mankind.
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