I read “Pursuing ‘It’ Through ‘Kew Gardens’” by Edward L. Bishop as a critical reading companion to the short story. Bishop’s essay helped me understand the purpose of the short story. When I finished the story, I envisioned a Monet-style painting, but that wasn't the only thing she was trying to accomplish. This short story was I believe her first foray into demonstrating her manifesto as stated in her essay “Modern Fiction.” She didn’t relate to her reader the specifics of the scene or detailed conversations. He states, “she immerses the reader in the atmosphere of the garden.” Perhaps it is better explained by James Hafley whom Bishop quotes: “Life [is] a vital impetus that is not logically explicable, and which must be first directly apprehended and then crippled into words.” He relates this to Woolf’s work in that she doesn’t try to pin down detail; she tries to capture the essence or Bishop’s term “atmosphere.” How can you describe a feeling, a sound, or an emotion?
He continues with how the sketch was carefully constructed to include a cross-section of social class, age, and relation. And as Dr. Sparks and Bishop point out, she brings the story around full-circle by beginning with the married couple reminiscing about old romances and ending with the young couple experiencing new romance. With the last couple, the snail parallels the man’s thoughts with the descriptions of his thoughts coinciding with the snail’s contoured landscape that he must pass through to reach his goal. Woolf wants to convey emotions more than dialogue or descriptions; the words of the characters have substance. For the young couple, “words” have “short wings for their heavy body of meaning”; whereas, the words from the pair of women seem to be gibberish, but they too have weight as they fall around the one woman who has become mesmerized by the garden.
He goes on to discuss how Woolf succeeds with this short story and her methodology. As Bishop states in his essay, Woolf definitely disperses with the “scaffolding” when we see into the thoughts of not just the people but also the snail. He states that “human beings [are] integrated not just with each other but with the phenomenal world.” And as he finishes his essay, he believes that Woolf captures the essence of life with her “net of words.”