If "Kew Gardens" by Virginia Woolf falls into the category of a short story, what is the activating circumstance in it?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Virginia Woolf's "Kew Gardens" does not follow the traditional plot line of the short story with an introduction, activating circumstance, climax, and resolution; instead, it reflects Woolf's Modernist techniques of stream-of-consciousness and Impressionism/Expressionism. Amid a tableau of flora amid impressionistic colors, and unique people, each with his/her own concerns, the persistent snail emerges as the unifying force to a series of vignettes that are somewhat recurrent:

Thus one couple after another with much the same irregular and aimless movement passed the flower-bed and were enveloped in layer after layer of green blue vapour, in which at first their bodies had substance and a dash of colour, but later both substance and colour dissolved in the green-blue atmosphere.

Even the snail's progress is arrested in Wolf's narrative although he conveys the idea that Nature will endure as he determinedly decides to crawl beneath it. Thus, humans and nature are aligned in their perseverance through the allusiveness of life, its threat of destruction and meaninglessness with the threats of war and loss as they engage in reflection, memory, and fear. Just as the garden is vivid in terms of its physical array of colors, people are characterized by the various patterns of their thoughts. 


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