Sunday, May 8, 2011
The Waves- Virginia Woolf
Staying true to her other novels like To the Lighthouse, Virginia Woolf's novel The Waves is not told through conventional methods. The Waves is a story about six individuals as the go from being children to adults. Like in her other novels, however, the main focus of the novel is not the physical actions of the characters but rather the individual consciousness and how they interact with the other characters. The entire book is written and told through soliloquies given by the six characters Bernard, Neville, Jinny, Susan, Rhoda, and Louis. Each character's consciousness reveals their desires and their personality; Louis is a misfit who seeks his own place in society; Neville desires to be loved and to love; Jinny is a socialite who bases her opinion of herself on the opinions of those around her; Susan rejects the modern city and returns to the countryside to become a mother; Rhoda constantly doubts himself, causing him to seclude himself from others. Percival, the final character, is the flawed hero to the other characters in the novel. He dies before the end of the novel and never speaks. Therefore, the reader is left to learn about him from the other characters. Woolf's novel follows these characters from their childhood days to their adult lives, allowing the reader to see the troubles and challenges that each character, each having their own strengths and weaknesses, deals with in life.
1) Throughout the novel, each character struggles to define themselves. Neville, for example, defines himself by opposing society and its conventions while Jenny defines herself by society. How do you define yourself and is their a right or a wrong way to do so?
2) In her novels, Woolf typically uses a stream of consciousness technique rather than focusing on the physical when writing about a group of characters' struggle to define themselves. Why do you think she tells her stories this way instead of via a more conventional approach?