Meaningless Existence in Virginia Woolf's Kew Gardens
"Kew Gardens," by Virginia Woolf, is skillfully developed and written in such a manner as to be jammed full of images, ideas, and possibilities. One of the many ideas found in the story is the presentation of human existence as meaningless, random, and haphazard. Indeed, throughout the story, many images, words, and even plot structure support the fact that the lives of the characters of the story are lives without meaning or direction. Woolf presents the reader with characters whose lives are noticeably blurry and unfocused, undefined and haphazard, lived without direction, and full of distraction and interruption. The characters' lives are lived in a haze, with meaningful existence eluding them. Evidence for this idea can be found throughout the story, both in the descriptive words Woolf uses and in the structure of the story.
The reoccurrence of the image of haze, or of hazy things, throughout the story provides a powerful beginning point. As the first set of characters exits the story, they are "soon diminished in size among the trees" and "half transparent as the sunlight and shade swam over their backs in large trembling irregular patches" (30). They are not seen as sturdy, solid human beings. The theme of haze is continued as Woolf discusses the "ponderous" elderly woman who first gazes at the flowers in the oval garden and "saw them as a sleeper waking from a heavy sleep sees a brass candlestick reflecting the light in an unfamiliar way" (33). Intangible images are further seen in the experience of the younger man who watches as "the mist very slowly rose and uncovered" (34) shapes which were at first indistinguishable. Finally, "one couple after another . . . 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 . . . like drops of water" (35). All seems foggy and elusive. Although they are presented as corporeal humans while in the garden, a reader develops a sense of the ephemeral when pondering these characters. The characters are essentially unknown; at times they don't even seem tangible. The characters exist in a sort of haze of reality; like the old woman who sees the flower as one waking from sleep, the characters do not see life clearly, but rather, they see it through a misty, distorted lens.
This emphasis on the intangibility of the characters suggests that they themselves aren't even aware of their own reality, or that they don't realize they are experiencing existence as a rather elusive, misty phenomenon. They are lost in lives that they themselves don't really understand. They have not built their lives in such a way as to be clear and defined, but instead are lost in lives that they have perhaps unintentionally allowed to become haze-filled and quite devoid of meaning. Simon more than likely didn't marry the woman...