The Waves--Virginia Woolf
This is the first time this semester that I feel as if whatever I were to say/write about Woolf’s work would be limiting the work itself. I pause before the screen, imagining as I type, Woolf writing out The Waves, and to me, the weight of the pen feels laborious, heavy, feels like if I were writing, the pen would be like carrying a great bundle up many flights of stairs. Writing before the screen seems much more light, unburdened—typically—but to write about The Waves seems to me like writing with a pen filled with water, so that each time I scratch down a thought, not only is that though illegible, but soon it dries, leaving no trace that it ever existed.
When I first began The Waves, I felt each “[someone] said” was as cumbersome as said pen. I thought I could not bear to read two hundred plus pages of “[someone] said.” Yet as I persevered, I became enamored with the soliloquies, finding that I did not feel lost (though Molly Hite references how Leonard told Virginia that the first part of the novel was difficult), but became lost in this universe created by Woolf’s pen. I found myself lying in the grass with Bernard, listening to his stories, making my way, too, into Elvedon. I knotted my handkerchief along with Susan, hid myself among the leaves with Louis. I, too, scoffed at the headmaster with Neville. I danced before the looking-glass with Jinny. These soliloquies keep time with the patterns of the waves, falling then drawing back. Each individual soliloquy does the same, so that when one speaks, we feel the push and tug of the language printed before us. We hear a great emotion, then feel the pull back to memory. And this pattern of movement happens so subtly, that I become entranced by it, enchanted to the point of believing this is the most beautiful novel I have ever read.
I am supposed to be following Susan while I read, yet I find each character alluring. Each character drops crumbs for us to follow, morsels that lead us to places in their lives really only meant for them. [Secret places. Elvedon.] With Susan, I find that she is not as I expected. Based on the characters’ descriptions on the chart, and with her being described as an earth mother, I imagined her to be like a woman in a Faulkner novel—wild and strange in moments, yet bound to dirt and warm life, rural yet wondrous (thinking of Dewey Dell—a mother figure in the death of her own mother, the field, the cow). Susan is connected with nature, but falls into a much more strict routine of life than I initially thought. Her refrain of “I love, I hate” seems more in tune with the latter part of the repeated assigned feelings toward various things/people/moments. Though Susan is to represent a motherly figure, thus far it appears as though she has difficulty separating the world from her own feelings towards all it contains. I cannot yet tell or conclude whether or not I can truly identify with her. Thus far, I feel more in tune with Bernard—always jotting down the phrases he is trying to catch, examining language, telling stories. In fact, I think his practice of keeping track of ideas and phrases in an alphabetical notebook is ingenious. When thinking about The Waves, under “W” I might write, “Wonderfully strange, these liquid musings of six friends,” or under “N” I might note, “Never do I want to leave the rhythm of The Waves. Never do I want to cease listening to those astonishing people as they talk to me.”