The difficulty of assigning genre to this novel is complicated by the fact that The Waves blurs distinctions between prose and poetry, allowing the novel to flow between six not dissimilar interior monologues. The book similarly breaks down boundaries between people, and Woolf herself wrote in her Diary that the six were not meant to be separate "characters" at all, but rather facets of consciousness illuminating a sense of continuity. Even the term "novel" may not accurately describe the complex form of The Waves.
The book also explores the role of the "ethos of male education" in shaping public life, and includes scenes of some of the characters experiencing bullying during their first days at school.
About the Author
VIRGINIA WOOLF (1882–1941) was one of the major literary figures of the twentieth century. An admired literary critic, she authored many essays, letters, journals, and short stories in addition to her groundbreaking novels.
Date of Birth:January 25, 1882
Date of Death:March 28, 1941
Place of Birth:London
Place of Death:Sussex, England
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The Waves (Annotated)
By Woolf, Virginia
Harvest BooksCopyright © 2006 Woolf, Virginia
All right reserved.
THE SUN had not yet risen. The sea was indistinguishable from the sky, except that the sea was slightly creased as if a cloth had wrinkles in it. Gradually as the sky whitened a dark line lay on the horizon dividing the sea from the sky and the grey cloth became barred with thick strokes moving, one after another, beneath the surface, following each other, pursuing each other, perpetually.
As they neared the shore each bar rose, heaped itself, broke and swept a thin veil of white water across the sand. The wave paused, and then drew out again, sighing like a sleeper whose breath comes and goes unconsciously. Gradually the dark bar on the horizon became clear as if the sediment in an old wine-bottle had sunk and left the glass green. Behind it, too, the sky cleared as if the white sediment there had sunk, or as if the arm of a woman couched beneath the horizon had raised a lamp and flat bars of white, green and yellow, spread across the sky like the blades of a fan. Then she raised her lamp higher and the air seemed to become fibrous and to tear away from the green surface flickering and flaming in red and yellow fibres like the smoky fire that roars from a bonfire. Gradually the fibres of the burning bonfire were fused into one haze, one incandescence which lifted the weight of the woollengrey sky on top of it and turned it to a million atoms of soft blue. The surface of the sea slowly became transparent and lay rippling and sparkling until the dark stripes were almost rubbed out. Slowly the arm that held the lamp raised it higher and then higher until a broad flame became visible; an arc of fire burnt on the rim of the horizon, and all round it the sea blazed gold.
The light struck upon the trees in the garden, making one leaf transparent and then another. One bird chirped high up; there was a pause; another chirped lower down. The sun sharpened the walls of the house, and rested like the tip of a fan upon a white blind and made a blue fingerprint of shadow under the leaf by the bedroom window. The blind stirred slightly, but all within was dim and unsubstantial. The birds sang their blank melody outside.
"I SEE a ring," said Bernard, "hanging above me. It quivers and hangs in a loop of light."
"I see a slab of pale yellow," said Susan, "spreading away until it meets a purple stripe."
"I hear a sound," said Rhoda, "cheep, chirp; cheep, chirp; going up and down."
"I see a globe," said Neville, "hanging down in a drop against the enormous flanks of some hill."
"I see a crimson tassel," said Jinny, "twisted with gold threads."
"I hear something stamping," said Louis. "A great beast's foot is chained. It stamps, and stamps, and stamps."
"Look at the spider's web on the corner of the balcony," said Bernard. "It has beads of water on it, drops of white light."
"The leaves are gathered round the window like pointed ears," said Susan.
"A shadow falls on the path," said Louis, "like an elbow bent."
"Islands of light are swimming on the grass," said Rhoda. "They have fallen through the trees."
"The birds' eyes are bright in the tunnels between the leaves," said Neville.
"The stalks are covered with harsh, short hairs," said Jinny, "and drops of water have stuck to them."
"A caterpillar is curled in a green ring," said Susan, "notched with blunt feet."
"The grey-shelled snail draws across the path and flattens the blades behind him," said Rhoda.
"And burning lights from the window-panes flash in and out on the grasses," said Louis.
"Stones are cold to my feet," said Neville. "I feel each one, round or pointed, separately."
"The back of my hand burns," said Jinny, "but the palm is clammy and damp with dew."
"Now the cock crows like a spurt of hard, red water in the white tide," said Bernard.
"Birds are singing up and down and in and out all round us," said Susan.
"The beast stamps; the elephant with its foot chained; the great brute on the beach stamps," said Louis.
"Look at the house," said Jinny, "with all its windows white with blinds."
"Cold water begins to run from the scullery tap," said Rhoda, "over the mackerel in the bowl."
"The walls are cracked with gold cracks," said Bernard, "and there are blue, finger-shaped shadows of leaves beneath the windows."
"Now Mrs. Constable pulls up her thick, black stockings," said Susan.
"When the smoke rises, sleep curls off the roof like a mist," said Louis.
"The birds sang in chorus first," said Rhoda. "Now the scullery door is unbarred. Off they fly. Off they fly like a fling of seed. But one sings by the bedroom window alone."
"Bubbles form on the floor of the saucepan," said Jinny. "Then they rise, quicker and quicker in a silver chain to the top."
"Now Biddy scrapes the fish-scales with a jagged knife on to a wooden board," said Neville.
"The dining-room window is dark blue now," said Bernard, "and the air ripples above the chimneys."
"A swallow is perched on the lightning-conductor," said Susan. "And Biddy has smacked down the bucket on the kitchen flags."
"That is the first stroke of the church bell," said Louis. "Then the others follow; one, two; one, two; one, two."
"Look at the table-cloth, flying white along the table," said Rhoda. "Now there are rounds of white china, and silver streaks beside each plate."
"Suddenly a bee booms in my ear," said Neville. "It is here; it is past."
"I burn, I shiver," said Jinny, "out of this sun, into this shadow."
"Now they have all gone," said Louis. "I am alone. They have gone into the house for breakfast, and I am left standing by the wall among the flowers. It is very early, before lessons. Flower after flower is specked on the depths of green. The petals are harlequins. Stalks rise from the black hollows beneath. The flowers swim like fish made of light upon the dark, green waters. I hold a stalk in my hand. I am the stalk. My roots go down to the depths of the world, through earth dry with brick, and damp earth, through veins of lead and silver. I am all fibre. All tremors shake me, and the weight of the earth is pressed to my ribs. Up here my eyes are green leaves, unseeing. I am a boy in grey flannels with a belt fastened by a brass snake up here. Down there my eyes are the lidless eyes of a stone figure in a desert by the Nile. I see women passing with red pitchers to the river; I see camels swaying and men in turbans. I hear tramplings, tremblings, stirrings round me. "Up here Bernard, Neville, Jinny and Susan (but not Rhoda) skim the flower-beds with their nets. They skim the butterflies from the nodding tops of the flowers. They brush the surface of the world. Their nets are full of fluttering wings. 'Louis! Louis! Louis!' they shout. But they cannot see me. I am on the other side of the hedge. There are only little eyeholes among the leaves. Oh, Lord, let them pass. Lord, let them lay their butterflies on a pocket-handkerchief on the gravel. Let them count out their tortoise-shells, their red admirals and cabbage whites. But let me be unseen. I am green as a yew tree in the shade of the hedge. My hair is made of leaves. I am rooted to the middle of the earth. My body is a stalk. I press the stalk. A drop oozes from the hole at the mouth and slowly, thickly, grows larger and larger. Now something pink passes the eyehole. Now an eyebeam is slid through the chink. Its beam strikes me. I am a boy in a grey flannel suit. She has found me. I am struck on the nape of the neck. She has kissed me. All is shattered."
"I was running," said Jinny, "after breakfast. I saw leaves moving in a hole in the hedge. I thought, 'That is a bird on its nest.' I parted them and looked; but there was no bird on a nest. The leaves went on moving. I was frightened. I ran past Susan, past Rhoda, and Neville and Bernard in the tool-house talking. I cried as I ran, faster and faster. What moved the leaves? What moves my heart, my legs? And I dashed in here, seeing you green as a bush, like a branch, very still, Louis, with your eyes fixed. 'Is he dead?' I thought, and kissed you, with my heart jumping under my pink frock like the leaves, which go on moving, though there is nothing to move them. Now I smell geraniums; I smell earth mould. I dance. I ripple. I am thrown over you like a net of light. I lie quivering flung over you."
Copyright 1931 by Harcourt, Inc.
Copyright renewed 1958 by Leonard Woolf
Annotated Edition copyright 2006 by Harcourt, Inc.
Preface copyright 2005 by Mark Hussey
Introduction copyright 2006 by Molly Hite
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Excerpted from The Waves (Annotated) by Woolf, Virginia Copyright © 2006 by Woolf, Virginia. Excerpted by permission.
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Table of Contents
Preface: Virginia Woolf
Notes to The Waves
Suggestions for Further Reading:
Suggestions for Further Reading:
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Virginia Woolf's groundbreaking work of imaginative fiction telling of a group of six close friends through the use of imagined thoughts and spoken words. A novel that needs the reader to just surrender oneself to it's hypnotic power.