Literary Analysis: Kew Gardens

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In Kew Gardens, Virginia Woolf takes advantage of the liminal quality of the short story in order to highlight the suspended world that she creates in the garden. For Woolf, the lyrical short story’s subversion of traditional narrative structure allows her to focus on creating a world rather than a plot. Further, the short story creates a liminal space by the very nature of its form. Caught in a space where it is not considered a poem or a novel, the short story exists as undefined. The liminality of the short story, however, is both liberating and restricting. Woolf explores this feature in order to suggest the unsustainable nature of Kew Gardens. While Woolf utilizes the form of the short story to create a liminal, impressionistic space that eradicates the boundaries between human and nature, she also uses the transitory quality of the short story to suggest that such a space can only exist for a short duration due to the restrictions of the imposing outside world. Eileen Baldeshwiler’s “The Lyric Short Story” discusses the two different branches of short story—the “epical” and the “lyrical” (231). Baldeshwiler highlights the separate functions of the forms by focusing on their stylistic differences. The epical short story, according to Baldeshwiler, relies heavily on “external action” that is “fabricated mainly to forward plot, culminating in a decisive ending that sometimes affords a universal insight” (231). Further, the plot and characters are “expressed in the serviceably inconspicuous language of prose realism” (Baldeshwiler 231). In other words, the characters, plot, and overall tone of the piece adhere to reality. In opposition to this style, Baldeshwiler explains that the lyrical short story “concentrates o... ... middle of paper ... ...that suspends the boundaries of man and nature, the way in which she structures the last image to be one of hostility indicates the unsustainable nature of the garden. Woolf, therefore, takes advantage of the lyrical short stories’ structure to create a liminal space that both breaks through barriers to form a unified, impressionistic world and to emphasize the imposing negative aspects of such a transitory structure. As a result, Woolf prompts the reader to question whether the liminal space created within the short story is positive in its ability to unite nature and human or negative in its apparent unsustainability. Regardless, the form and structure of the short story are pivotal in Kew Gardens. Without the liminal space of the short story, it is questionable if Woolf could have succeeded in creating the unstable, yet peaceful, world in Kew Gardens.

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