Virginia Woolf Short Stories

Here are some of Virginia Woolf’s short stories. She wrote in the modernist style, often using stream-of-consciousness, which can definitely make her stories a bit harder to understand.

“The Mark On the Wall”

The narrator thinks back to when she first noticed the small round, black mark on the wall, above the mantlepiece. It sent her reflecting on the mystery and speed of life, the inaccuracy of thought and a variety of people and things. She wasn’t sure exactly what it was—a mark, a hole or a projection— and she resisted getting up and taking a really close look at it.

This story can be read in the preview of The Complete Works(31% in)

“Kew Gardens”

In a botanic garden in July, the narrator focuses on a few conversations taking place between people walking by a flowerbed—a couple who’ve been married some time, two men, two elderly women and a young couple. Interspersed with this are descriptions of the garden and an accounting of the slow progression of a snail that seems to have an end goal.

This story can be also be read in the preview of The Complete Works(32% in)

“A Haunted House”

All through the night, there are doors shutting and a ghostly couple walks hand in hand through the house, looking for something. If the couple living there get up to look, the house will be empty.

This story can be also be read in the above preview of The Complete Works(71% in, or select Monday or Tuesday in TOC)

“A Society”

A group of women are having tea talking about the praiseworthy qualities of men when one of them, Polly, burst into tears. Her father left her a fortune on the condition that she read all the books in the London Library. After extensive reading she’s come to a conclusion—for the most part, books are very bad. Her companions object, but when she reads a few passage aloud, they have to agree with her assessment. This gets the women thinking about how they’ve taken it for granted that their duty is to bear children. They decide to postpone that and form a society of women who ask questions and learn about the world.

This story can be also be read in the above preview of The Complete Works(71% in, or select Monday or Tuesday in TOC, then the title)

“Monday or Tuesday”

A heron flies over a church and . . . that’s all I know for sure. Something is probably happening in this story (sketch?), but I’ll have to let you sort it out yourself.

This story can be also be read in the above preview of The Complete Works(72% in, or select Monday or Tuesday in TOC, then the story title again)

“An Unwritten Novel”

A woman, the narrator, riding the train observes the five other people facing her. Four of them are doing something—smoking, reading, looking in a notebook and looking at a map. The fifth, a woman, is doing nothing and looks unhappy. She says a few things to the narrator and then stops. The narrator picks up the story herself. She starts inventing a life for the unhappy woman.

This story can be also be read in the above preview of The Complete Works(72-73% in, or select Monday or Tuesday in TOC, then the story title)

“The String Quartet”

The narrator attends the performance of a string quartet. She talks to an old acquaintance, listens to the music, and overhears some surrounding conversation.

This story can be also be read in the above preview of The Complete Works(73% in, or select Monday or Tuesday in TOC, then the story title)

“Blue & Green”

In “Green”, a chandelier (I think) reflects the light, dropping a pool of green on the marble below. The narrator’s thoughts run to other green things. In “Blue”, some kind of fish (?) spouts water from its nostrils, then submerges, and is then thrown onto the beach.

This story can be also be read in the above preview of The Complete Works(74% in, or select Monday or Tuesday in TOC, then the story title)

“The New Dress”

Mabel arrives at Clarissa’s place for a party. Immediately, she has the suspicion that something is wrong. Walking to the far end of the room and looking in the mirror confirms her fears. Her dress isn’t right. She couldn’t afford the latest style so she had one made from a cheaper pattern, old-fashioned, modeled after a picture from a Paris fashion book that looked charming on the page. Mabel has always had issues with inferiority, and now, in a room full of fashionably dressed people, these feelings surface. She becomes consumed with how she looks and how she is viewed by the other attendees.

“The Widow and the Parrot: A True Story”

Mrs. Gage is an elderly widow—lame, short-sighted, poor and an animal-lover—who gets a letter informing her of her brother’s death. She is to inherit her brother’s possessions and money. They haven’t stayed close over the years, so this windfall is unexpected. She’s overjoyed at the prospect of living more prosperously.  She borrows some money from her minister to make the trip to her brother’s town to settle his estate. On arriving, she finds her brother also had a parrot.

Read “The Widow and the Parrot”

“The Legacy”

Gilbert Clandon’s wife, Angela, was killed six weeks ago when she was hit by a car. Gilbert is waiting for a visit from Sissy Miller, his wife’s former secretary. He has a keepsake of his wife’s to give her. Angela had little tokens prepared to give all her friends in case of her death. Gilbert finds it strange that Angela had everything so organized. She was in perfect health. To Gilbert she left her diary, all fifteen little volumes, which he was never allowed to see when she was alive.

Read “The Legacy”