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The waves

The waves

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Published by ysf
Notes on Virginia Woolf's masterpiece " The Waves" .
Notes on Virginia Woolf's masterpiece " The Waves" .

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Published by: ysf on Oct 11, 2010
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11/15/2012

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“THEWAVES”
Virginia Woolf 
The Waves
Virginia Woolf
Table of Contents
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Context
Virginia Woolf was one of the great literary figures of the twentieth century,and
The Waves 
(1931) represents, in a career filled with bold experiments, hermost audacious exploration of the possibilities of the novel form.
The Waves 
abandons traditional structure and plot as practiced in the English novelsince the days of the writer Henry Fielding, in favor of a lyrical, almost dreamlikeevocation of character. Instead of narrating her characters’ outward actions,Woolf enters their minds and reports their thoughts and perceptions as theyoccur, with few external clues to provide shape or context. Woolf builds hercharacters from the inside out, and one of the concerns of the novel is the wayindividual personalities and sensibilities are shaped by relationships with others.The resulting work still presents unique challenges and rewards for the reader,even more than fifty years since its publication. Woolf herself, however, workedhard in her lifetime to create an intellectual and critical environment in which suchformally adventurous works as
The Waves 
could be understood and appreciated.Woolf was born in 1882 into an already distinguished literary and artistic family.Her father, Sir Leslie Stephen, was one of the most notable intellectuals of hisday, and her sister, Vanessa, went on to become a well-regarded painter. Alongwith her husband, the publisher Leonard Woolf, whom she married in 1912,Woolf became one of the leading figures in the Bloomsbury Group of artists andwriters. Named for the London district in which the Woolfs lived, the BloomsburyGroup was an informal circle of writers, artists, and thinkers who formed one ofthe most well-known branches of the literary avant-garde of the early twentiethcentury. Not so much a “movement” as a collection of like-minded friends,Bloomsbury stood for a moderately leftist political stance, a commitment to formalinnovation in the arts, a refined critical and aesthetic sensibility, and an intenselyinward focus on the way the mind translates experience into language andmeaning. The Bloomsbury Group also tended to define itself in opposition to theVictorian period, the era of their parents and grandparents. As avowedmodernists, they turned their backs on what they saw as the stuffy formality andhypocritical morality of the Victorians. Through their experiments in art andliterature, they hoped to discover a new artistic method to match the new century.
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Woolf was at the forefront of these efforts. In her critical writing, she championedthe work of such contemporaries as James Joyce, whose novel
Ulysses 
(1922)set the standard for modernist writing and is—apart from Woolf’s own work—themost obvious forerunner of
The Waves 
. She also pioneered efforts to establish acanon of women writers. Her influential readings of such authors as Jane Austenand George Eliot help to locate her own work within a tradition of femalenovelists.In her famous essay “Modern Fiction,” Woolf distinguishes between those writersshe labels “materialists,” who focus on the surface of things and events at theexpense of inner meaning, and those such as Joyce and herself, who are“spiritual” and want to convey “that innermost flame” of people and events, evenif this concern leads them away from what we are used to thinking of as realisticwriting. For Woolf, capturing the “innermost flame” is the most important task ofthe modern novelist, who tries to reveal the extraordinary quality of “an ordinarymind on an ordinary day.” In her greatest works, such as
Mrs.Dalloway 
(1925),
To the Lighthouse 
(1927), and
The Waves 
, Woolf epitomizessuch a modern writer, leaving behind the conventional structures of the novel inorder to pursue the fleeting impressions within the minds of her characters,capturing them in flight within a net of language and imagery.
Plot Overview
The Waves 
is a portrait of the intertwined lives of six friends: Bernard, Neville,Louis, Jinny, Susan, and Rhoda. The novel is divided into nine sections, each ofwhich corresponds to a time of day, and, symbolically, to a period in the lives ofthe characters. Each section begins with a detailed description of the course ofthis symbolic day.The first section deals with early morning, or childhood, when the six maincharacters are attending a day-school together. As each of the children awakens,he or she begins an internal monologue composed of thoughts, feelings, andimpressions. The children interact in various ways throughout the day, and eachbegins to take shape as an individual in response to the stimulus provided by theworld and by the presence of one another. Although their thoughts are somewhatincoherent and mostly fixated on immediate experience, their distinctpersonalities begin to emerge: Bernard’s loquacity and obsession with language;Neville’s desire for order and beauty; Louis’s insecurity and ambition; Jinny’sphysicality; Susan’s intensity and attachment to nature; and Rhoda’s dreamlikeabstraction from ordinary life.The second section deals with adolescence, after the boys and girls have beensent off to their separate boarding schools. Bernard, Louis, and Neville differ in
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