In Virginia Woolf’s novel, The Waves, the reader is introduced to six voices that reflect their lives and thoughts in poetic soliloquies. Although each voice is given a name, and the genders are split evenly, they are not completely separate entities. Some would like to call them characters, but to do so would be missing or even mistaking Woolf’s intentions for her work. The six voices are meant to mingle, separate, and unify throughout The Waves, because they represent the different selves that each human carries within them. Woolf herself said that she was surprised when people remarked that her characterization was excellent considering that she hadn’t intended to create characters. The form of the work and the connections between the voices form a single unifying whole that could be said to represent the human soul. People are not black and white, and Woolf knew this better than most. Instead, every person has different personalities and souls that govern our lives at certain times. It is said that her voices represent aspects of herself and of people close to her in real life. This idea would only reinforce her attempt to capture different aspects of the human psyche. At once, we are separate, and yet also the same in many ways. Just as the waves in the ocean are small ripples that separate themselves to charge the shore, they still return to the sea to complete the whole. It would be interesting to explore why Woolf was so fascinated to reveal the different psyches that inhabit each person and to what purpose? Is it possible that through the voices she is trying to show people that in the end we are all so similar that together we make one great whole: the ocean?
In her essay Modern Fiction, we are introduced to Woolf’s ideas of the human soul. She talks about how it is a luminous halo, and not a series of symmetrical gig lamps. Woolf does not believe that reality can be captured through one single interpretation. Instead, she believes that reality is represented through multiple subjective realities that are all intertwined. It is the individual’s perspectives that are subjective, and yet within each person there are more than one representations of the psyche.
In her essay Modern Fiction, we are introduced to Woolf’s ideas of the human soul. She talks about how it is a luminous halo, and not a series of symmetrical gig lamps. Woolf does not believe that reality can be captured through one single interpretation. Instead, she believes that reality is represented through multiple subjective realities that are all intertwined. It is the individual’s perspectives that are subjective, and yet within each person there are more than one representations of the psyche. Perspective and emotion are what govern the human mind. In each person we have a multi-personality that emerges in variations of time and place. Every moment of living is interpreted differently depending on our varying perspectives and emotions that are entangled within. The brain is a powerful organ, one that is not yet fully explored or understood. It could be argued that Woolf knew this better than most, and was very interested in capturing the different thoughts and ideas that are constantly racing through our mind. For many, the form of The Waves is very confusing. The six voices that speak eloquently, poetically, and with such sophistication are far from reality. Or are they? If one were to open the brain (philosophically and hypothetically speaking, not literally of course) but if we were to open a stranger’s head and allowed to listen to their thoughts would anything make sense? Furthermore, would everything sound the same or be grouped as one unifying whole? It’s impossible to say, but by looking at the form of The Waves one could argue that Woolf would say no.
There are similarities between the six voices, but there are also extremely differentiating characteristics that could be pinned to each voice. These differences are what make the multi-layered personality that represents the whole. The three women are very feminine, and the males are very masculine. Woolf believed that within each person, there is a resemblance of both genders residing in our characters. Whether we embrace or suppress either gender is up to the individual. Ginny could be argued to be the representation of vanity and frivolity, and perhaps even adventure. The city attracts her because of its fast pace, fashion, and lust that could be associated with a more urban setting. Susan represents the maternal and country. She is essentially the opposite of Ginny. And then there is Rhoda, the dark side of every human’s nature that lurks in the corner. Similar comparisons and descriptions could go on for the male characters. Louis is self-conscious, while Neville constantly looks for love. But the voice of Bernard stands out, and he certainly dominates much of The Waves.
At the end of The Waves, the reader is given only the voice of Bernard. This is interesting, because it could further reinforce the separate entities that reside in one person. Yes, there is only one perspective and voice, but could Bernard be a representation of the dominating part of the soul? Every person has different aspects to their personality, but we also have dominating features and traits that tend to reside over the others. Furthermore, Bernard’s presiding voice is at the end of the novel, when the characters have grown up. Could it not be argued that the older humans get the more we realize our true selves. At the beginning of the novel, we are given so many different voices, and only snippets of each voice. The voices are children and therefore have not developed into separate entities yet. As the novel progresses, the voices differentiate themselves from each other and grow into their own selves. Finally, at the end, the reader is left with just one voice, and perhaps this is Woolf’s way of saying that the individual has finally found the true self?
WELCOME TO MY BLOG!
Hello all! My name is Drew Blanchette. I'm 21 years old and a class member of the Virginia Woolf Seminar. First and foremost, I must warn potential viewers that I have no knowledge of Virginia Woolf's work. I am hoping that as the class progresses and I have a chance to read her apparently fabulous works (or so I have been told) I will develop some knowledge and appreciation. As my blogs increase perhaps the reader will pick up on my progression! Hopefully whoever looks over my site will enjoy my posts and not be too bored by my analyzing attempts. Thanks ahead of time for viewing my site!