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Discussion Prompt Essay

696 words - 3 pages

Time in stories using stream-of-consciousness and interior monologue techniques is very subjective and malleable. As Stephen Kern notes, realists may have used time to help fill in background detail about plot and characters, but modernists took it to new levels, “to capture how the mind ranges erratically about the temporal spectrum” (113).

This is apparent in both “Kew Gardens” and “The Mark on the Wall” by Virginia Woolf. In “Kew Gardens,” flower and insect descriptions are interspersed with vignettes of the people passing through the garden. The conversation of Simon and Eleanor (a 180-degree flip from Joyce’s “The Dead,” where a similar conversation involved a woman’s recollection of ...view middle of the document...

These reveries, by the amount of words assigned to them, would seem to occupy a great deal of time, but the reader realizes at the end that very little time, objectively, has passed. Woolf has, instead, slowed story time sufficiently to allow all these musings to occur in short order.

Marc Cyr raises an intriguing question relating to the passing of time in “The Mark on the Wall.” He suggests that perhaps the piece is not the narrator’s reminiscence of something that occurred in the middle of January, but rather her present tense reverie caused by looking up at the wall’s blemish. This would be a small but significant change, another example of Woolf bending time, perhaps unconsciously, in her fiction.

The narrator of “Kew Gardens” appears to be an omniscient, third-person sort, appropriate for a story where the focus shifts so dramatically from people to nature. Considering that the narrator is privy to Simon’s thoughts, readers can rule out an attentive fellow walker in the park as the likely...

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