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Monday, October 25, 2010

My Impressions of "The Waves" by Viriginia Woolf

North York Moors National Park

Virginia Woolf wrote The Waves after her two very successful modernist novels Mrs. Dalloway and To the Lighthouse, but this novel ventures further into the new found land of modern writing.  Her experiment into the stream-of-consciousness succeeded with the preceding novels, that she extended the experiment into trying to not even have characters.  In some ways she did succeed.  I had a difficult time in keeping characters straight, especially with the men.  I then wondered if she purposefully wrote the men to be more generic, but then I remembered Neville is a homosexual, Louis is an Aussie, and then Bernard becomes the typical family man.  Then again, I would stop and wonder as I was reading, "Is this the gay one, or is it the other."  Then I realized that I could be bringing too much of myself into the reading; being a woman I would of course relate to the women more than to the men.  I too remember my younger days when I felt like the sun shone on me, or the exact opposite when I had such little confidence or self-worth, I wondered if i really existed.  At times I felt like Jinny and others just like Rhoda.  So I could relate to them.  And Susan, what about her?

Like Susan, I feel it sometimes, that hard tumorous knot in my side.  That seed that they planted oh-so-many years ago that has grown into a hard-shelled mass.  Susan has it.  The knot that "they" have created by making you think "their" way, dress like "they" dress, act like "them," color inside the lines, drive "this" car, live in a house size of an aircraft carrier.  The knot that is the cancer created from them making "you" conform.  Driving into work this morning with my windows down letting the air "style" my hair, I saw others sealed into their cans on wheels breathing the closed-in air of manufactured vehicles.  Susan needs a walk on the moors, her squirrels, her doves, and her father to clean this cancer from her body.  At the going away dinner for Percival, she dresses shabbily.  She fits in better than Rhoda, but she can’t adjust to the city and fashion.

And just like Susan, I too love and hate.  Just minutes ago, I hated, and hated, and hated one more time for shits and giggles.  I hated that those people were talking so loudly as I was trying to read a critical article; I hated that I forgot to bring my Wheat Thins, but most of all I hate, from the tips of my hair down to the bottom of my toes, Apple computers.  Steve Jobs is the anti-Christ.  Last night, I loved the strong winds trying to push me about, and I loved seeing the leaves dance on the road as I was coming home.  I loved coming into my home where my heart resides.  My whole body sighs with relief when I get out of my car and come home.  I felt just as Susan did when she arrived home.  Home cures us.

Again like Susan, I had all these ideas of how my life would be. Although, I never had the maternal instincts she did.  When the book passes mid-day and all the characters are past their primes, Susan gives the impression that her life didn't quite go as she planned; not that she really had any plans.  It seems as if she is a bit disillusioned and settles for her current way of life.  She no longer speaks of country living as passionately as she once did.  Life does tend to bring reality to one's plans and youthful ideals.

But what is the book about overall?  In a different venue, Woolf brings reality to us.  Just as her novel uses the time of day and the position of the sun to parallel the life span of a group of characters, she uses this story to relate reality.  We all have plans of what we want to do in youth; dreams that sometimes come to fruition and sometimes not.  Death knocks on doors; sometimes he’s invited, and other times he shows up unannounced and unexpected.  Other times, we realize that what we wanted wasn’t as great as we expected it to be.  I think this happened to Susan.  A couple of statements in the last chapter assure the reader of this:  Susan says to Bernard, "My ruined life, my wasted life"; she had loved Bernard, and Percival loved her.  Now, she completely admits that her life wasn't what she wanted it to be (168).  Later (I think at a dinner party), she says, "Still I gape ... like a young bird, unsatisfied, for something that has escaped me" (171).  In thinking of Susan some lyrics to a John Lennon song pop in my head, "Life is what happens to you when you're busy making other plans."  It's what she thought she wanted, but still something escaped, the essence of her true desire.  Youth says, "I want this, I'm going to be that, My life is going to be wonderful!"  Then age and reality catch up, and then you wonder, "This is what the fuck I got out of bed for?"

And I keep forgetting to mention this.  Drew said that she thought the character's were each representative of some aspect of Woolf's personality.  I had a similar thought.  At one point it dawned on me (maybe we've mentioned this in class, I hope not as I sure would like to seem astute) that Rhoda represents the hurt side of Woolf.  The piece that was tainted by George and Gerald's touch.  The bit that always wants to hide for fear "it's" still out there wanting to hurt you.  "It" that thing that is more powerful than you, that you can't escape.  It's why she tried to hide from sight; why she had no face. 

Anyway, this REALLY is my second to the last thought -- the woman who writes assiduously is Woolf.  I hope my epiphanies aren't echoes from lecture; I now see why you want the blogs before class discussion.

And with my last comment, I have this to say about Percival.  He’s very similar to Augustus Carmichael.  The strange narration style never visits Percival; we only see him through the eye-thoughts of the others.  We are never allowed to invade Percival’s mind.  Perhaps his thoughts were dull because I envisioned him as what we now refer to as “a jock,” all muscle, good looks, good connections, but undeserving except by birth.  Would Carmichael’s thoughts be any more interesting?   --- Okay, I should save all that and the rest of what I was about to type for my paper; therefore, end here I shall!

Work Cited:
Lennon, John.  "Beautiful Boy."  memory.
Woolf, Virginia.  The Waves.  1931.  Ed. Mark Hussey.  Orlando, Florida:  2006.  Print.

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