A Sketch of the Past illuminated the early years of Virginia Woolf. She describes the people and places that make up her young life. Talland House is one of the places she spends a lot of time, actually she only spent a month and a half out of the year there. Nevertheless, it made up a significant part of her memoir. Virginia may feel so connected to the house because it was purchased just before she was born. It is the place associated with two of her most negative early memories. First when her brother, Gerarld Duckworth, molested her. She does not reveal exactly how old she was at the time, she just writes that she was very small. Woolf hints that this might have something to do with her "looking glass shame." (9) She also suggest it might have something to do with her puritan inheritance. It is obviously a detriment in her life because it causes everything that has to do with dress to make her nervous. Also, because of this shame, she can only appreciate beauty outside herself. Another of Virginia's negative memories if of a suicide she heard about. An apple tree she passes reminds her of it. She discusses why certain things may get remembered, while others simply fade away. She also writes about what makes a memory positive or negative. She decides it is whether she felt powerless or conscious in the situation.
Virginia's mother was a very important person in her life. Even after she died when Virginia was thirteen, she continued to be an invisible presence in her daughter's life/ (14) Virginia stated that both Talland House and Hyde Gate were full of her. Virginia's mother was also the force that kept the family together. After her death, parties and merriment ceased. A figure closely associated with Virginia's mother is Stella. She says they were like the sun and the moon. Virginia describes her older sister as quiet, as well as modest and charming. Stella died shortly after her wedding. For her widowed husband Jack a skeleton tree became the symbol of his immense grief. This speaks to the suicide apple tree and begins to form a motif where tree's represent death.