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Waves, The

a novel by V. Woolf, published in 1931. It takes as far as possible her method of expressing character and states of mind through a poetic language of recurrent images and rhythmical repetitions. It traces the lives of a group of friends (Bernard, Susan, Rhoda, Neville, Jinny, and Louis) from childhood to late middle age. Each character speaks his or her thoughts in a formalized direct speech, stylistically undifferentiated but each consisting of recognizable patterns of images, preoccupations, and turns of phrase. Bernard is the writer, Susan is rural and maternal, Jinny is sensual, Rhoda is lonely and unstable, Louis is a solitary businessman, Neville is a homosexual. ‘Factual’ information (Susan marries a farmer, Louis and Rhoda are lovers for a time) is given less prominence than their states of mind. The ‘speech’ of the characters is intercut with italicized sections of lyrical prose describing the rising and sinking of a near-allegorical sun (which keeps pace with their lives) over a seascape of waves and shore. The long last section is spoken by Bernard to an imaginary listener, the reader. There is one additional character, Percival, who does not ‘speak’. He is the focus for all the characters' desires and ambitions, and, because of his early death in India, for their fears and defiance of death and mortality.

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Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Robert Penn Warren Biography to Kenneth White Biography