Are there any conflicts in "Kew Gardens" by Virginia Woolf?

Quick answer:

The conflict between the individual and the group is one of the central themes in Virginia Woolf's "Kew Gardens".

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Perhaps one of the biggest conflicts in this short story is the conflict between the individual and the group. The short story features a series of people walking in Kew Gardens. All are with at least one other person, and yet Woolf presents some of them as being profoundly lonely and alienated as they are engrossed in their own memories. Note how the man and the "ponderous woman" are presented as being both lonely and separated from those around them. It is of course the old man's erratic behaviour that separates him from others:

Here he seemed to have caught sight of a woman's dress in the distance, which in the shade looked a purple black. He took off his hat, placed his hand upon his heart, and hurried towards her muttering and gesticulating feverishly. But William caught him by the sleeve and touched a flower with the tip of his walking stick in order to divert the old man's attention.

The old man is an extreme case, but all the characters in this short story are so engrossed in their own private memories that Woolf seems to point towards the conflict of the individual vs. the group, which, considering the setting of the Modern Industrial Age that is alluded to in the final paragraph of the story, seems to present mankind as suffering in terms of our relationships and reaching out because of Modernism.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial