Why is there no plot in "Kew Gardens" by Virginia Woolf?

Because of the focus on the random nature of life and the many interactions of people in a park, Virginia Woolf chooses not to write a traditional plot for “Kew Gardens.

Expert Answers

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

Although we can’t know for certain why Virginia Woolf chose not to use a traditional plot structure (i.e., conflict, climax, and resolution) in her story “Kew Gardens ,” we can surmise, based on this story and on others of Woolf’s work, such as the multiple plotlines of her...

This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

novelMrs. Dalloway, that Woolf is more interested in the ways in which the random nature of our interactions with each other and the world around us forms meaning than in making an orderly kind of sense. “Kew Gardens” focuses on one small part of a city park, and the reader overhears the conversations of various people who pass through. The story is a commentary on what our seemingly random decisions and fates can mean for our lives. Each of the inhabitants that the story glimpses are at different life stages and have different desires and regrets. Because of this, one could argue that the plot of “Kew Gardens” is the passage of time itself; but it is more likely Woolf’s intent was to create an impressionist-style look at one place and moment in time.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

This depends very much on your definition of "plot." Whilst this short story may lack a traditional plot formation of introducing us to some characters with a problem, seeing how that problem develops and reaches its climax and then how things resolved, it certainly does offer us with a chronological narrative that focuses on one bed of flowers and the men and women that walk past it. Note how they are described:

The figures of these men and women straggled past the flower-bed with a curiously irregular movement not unlike that of the white and blue butterflies who crossed the turf in zig-zag flights from bed to bed.

The story then eschews the traditional narrative format to present us with snapshots of the characters who go past this one bed of flowers, and Woolf is careful to compare these people to fluttering butterflies. The focus is on nature, and perhaps ironically it is humans who are presented as flittering past whilst the slow arduous movement of the snail remains the one constant focus of the text throughout the entire story. Woolf seems to be making a comment about the ephemeral and temporary nature of our concerns, memories and preoccupations, which are compared to the constancy of nature.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team