The Waves

The Waves

by Virginia Woolf


$25.99 View All Available Formats & Editions
Choose Expedited Shipping at checkout for guaranteed delivery by Thursday, October 24


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 of which corresponds to a time of day, and, symbolically, to a period in the lives of the characters.

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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781695935662
Publisher: Independently published
Publication date: 09/27/2019
Pages: 448
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x 1.00(d)

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:


Place of Death:

Sussex, England


Home schooling

Read an Excerpt

The Waves (Annotated)

By Woolf, Virginia

Harvest Books

Copyright © 2006 Woolf, Virginia
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0156031574

The Waves
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
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.


Excerpted from The Waves (Annotated) by Woolf, Virginia Copyright © 2006 by Woolf, Virginia. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Preface: Virginia Woolf
The Waves
Notes to The Waves
Suggestions for Further Reading:
Virginia Woolf
Suggestions for Further Reading:
The Waves

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See All Customer Reviews

The Waves 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 25 reviews.
gbill on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Further experimentation in style from Virginia Woolf -- in "The Waves", she paints an impressionist picture of six lives through their own internal dialogues. I believe the point she was making was that while our lives are fleeting, separate, and largely unknown to others, we are all ultimately connected in our human condition, and must "live in the now", absurd though it may seem.It takes patience to read this book and taking notes helps; here is a brief summary of the characters which may also illustrate the tone of the novel since it is shaped largely by their perspectives:- Bernard, a writer who likes people and telling stories, though he is sloppy and has trouble finishing his stories. Bernard likes Susan.- Neville, who disdains people, the mediocrity of the world, and religion; he is aloof but inspired by nature and had a crush on Percival.- Louis, an outsider who is too smart to be a common man, but too poor to attend college; he thinks others are cruel and boastful but secretly envies them.- Susan, who says she does not wish to be admired, tears off calendar days "revenging herself" upon the day, and who cries remembering home. She's jealous seeing Louis and Jinny kissing.- Rhoda, a dreamer who cannot read or write, is unsure of herself and feels invisible and alone.- Jinny, a dancer who wishes to be loved, is "never cast down" and who likes men.Percival, the seventh character, is pieced together not through direction narration as the others but through the other's memories; he was admired as a leader and an inspiration for poetry, but died in India.Quotes:On change:"The clouds lose tufts of whiteness as the breeze dishevels them. If that blue could stay for ever; if that hole could remain for ever; if this moment could stay for ever...""There is nothing staid, nothing settled in this universe. All is rippling, all is dancing; all is quickness and triumph."On having children:"It is, however, true that I cannot deny a sense that life for me is now mysteriously prolonged. Is it that I may have children, may cast a fling of seed wider, beyond this generation, this doom-encircled population, shuffling each other in endless competition along the street? My daughters shall come here, in other summers; my sons shall turn new fields. Hence we are not raindrops, soon dried by the wind; we make gardens blow and forests roar; we come up differently, for ever and ever."On death:"Death is the enemy. It is death against whom I ride with my spear couched and my hair flying back like a young man's, like Percival's, when he galloped in India. I strike my spurs into my horse. Against you I will fling myself, unvanquished and unyielding, O Death!'The waves broke on the shore."On friendship:"Our friends - how distant, how mute, how seldom visited and little known. And I, too, am dim to my friends and unknown; a phantom, sometimes seen, often not. Life is a dream surely. Our flame, the will-o'-the-wisp that dances in a few eyes is soon blown out and all will fade.""I condemn you. Yet my heart yearns towards you. I would go with you through the fires of death. Yet am happiest alone."On intellectuals:"It would be better to breed horses and live in one of those red villas than to run in and out of the skulls of Sophocles and Euripides like a maggot, with a high-minded wife, one of those University women. That, however, will be my fate. I shall suffer. I am already at eighteen capable of such contempt that horse-breeders hate me."On living life in the now:"I tremble, I quiver, like a leaf in the hedge, as I sit dangling my feet, on the edge of the bed, with a new day to break open. I have fifty years, I have sixty years to spend. I have not yet broken into my hoard. This is the beginning."On love:"There can be no doubt, I thought, pushing aside the newspaper, that our mean lives, unsightly as they are, put on splendour and have meaning only under the eyes of love."On memories, friendship, and change:"S
StantonK on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
English speakers everywhere should thank whatever higher power allowed for Virginia Woolf to write in their native tongue. They should, at the same time, thank her for gracing the world with books like "The Waves." Difficult? Of course, but so is existence, and no one, in any tradition, has been better at expressing the tumultuous inner space of being. This book, told as a series of interior monologues told by six characters, broken into chapters by brief descriptions of a beach at different times of day, is not an easy read, there is no doubt about that, but it is not obscure or pedantic. Its "difficultness" lies in its idiosyncrasies, in its subjective view toward reality, in its fragmentation, in its personality: its difficulty lies in how well it parallels individual experience and existence. By allowing each character to speak exclusively from its own private and self-serving platform, it makes a noble attempt at rectifying the artificiality of the text with the unknowableness of life, even if it fails to truly rectify the rift (which is impossible anyway). Perhaps, however, it would be better appreciated if other works are used as an introduction to Woolf's style; not to say that To the Lighthouse or Mrs. Dalloway are easy books, but they are easier for the novice to Woolf's style to wrap her/his mind around. Reading it requires concentration and effort, but like trying to truly know a person, all the travail is worth it in the end. Immerse yourself in the book, and feel how great literature truly can be.
Magica28 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I don't have a huge collection of things that I've read at the time I'm writing this review, but I do know one of my favorite things (whether it's in reading or watching) is anything with a psychological aspect. Something that makes you think about life and your existence, or that just completely messes with your mind. Unfortunately, I'm finding books of this sort quite difficult to find thus far. I expect that when reading a book with lots of psychological aspects in it, that if it is good, it will certainly draw out some sort of emotion in me, be it good or bad. When I started reading The Waves, I fully expected that would happen (and was ecstatic to find something along the lines of what I had been looking for). Sadly, it didn't draw me in that much. I'm not at all saying this was a bad book. I did love the concept of it, the fact that there wasn't really a plot, you're just exploring the minds of a group of people. I also loved the way the surroundings were described, it painted quite an amazing picture of the landscape in my head. But that's about all I can think of that really interested me about this book. The story itself just didn't draw me in as much as I'd hoped. So while I do not think this was a bad book, I also didn't think it was spectacular. It was only mediocre to me.
Nickelini on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is considered Woolf's most experimental text, and that's saying a lot. I'll admit right off that I didn't understand much of what I was reading. But like a highly complex piece of music, or a sophisticated painting, it isn't necessary for the audience to understand it completely in order to enjoy it. So I didn't stress that over what I didn't get--I just let the art wash over me. There is so much hauntingly beautiful imagery in this novel, and the structure of the book is very cool. I hope that some day I can study this text in a class with a really excellent prof, and understand more of what Woolf is trying to say in The Waves.----I wrote the above after I read The Waves in 2008. I did study Woolf with a really excellent prof the following year at university, although we did a different novel. But he taught me that "you can't understand Woolf until you reread Woolf." So, in retrospect, my "letting the art wash over me" approach was just fine, and my understanding will come with the second, third, ..... reads. And this is such a beautiful book, that I'm happy to reread this book over and over again for years to come.
jbushnell on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Not only one of the best explorations of the progression from youth to old age ever written, but also an exhilirating book-length experiment in utilizing omniscience as a mode for representing the irrepresentable experience of gnosis. The resultant book is a masterpiece: a flickering texture of epiphanies. Highly recommended.
TheBooknerd on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Slap me sideways and call me Fanny. Virginia Woolf actually wrote something that didn't make me want to lobotamize myself with silverware. Not that this was, by any means, a treat to read. It was, though, interesting -- an interesting can exist along a whole spectrum of good to bad. What I'll say about this book is that it revolutionizes narrative form, written entirely from the stream-of-consciousness perspectives of six different characters. Confusing, certainly. Easily read, certainly not. Worth reading? I would say that if you had to read some of Woolf's fiction for some unstated yet dire reason, this would be likely choice.
Karlus on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
You have probably not read another novel like this at all, because, with The Waves, Ms Woolf set out to write a completely different kind of novel and, in fact, she succeeded very well. It breaks with your expectations in almost any way you can imagine.There is no central character, except perhaps for one Percival who is only remembered through the reveries of the other characters and lives and dies completely outside of the story. There are no minor characters; of major characters, there are six, all with equally major roles.The story of the book is told predominantly in the first person, meaning that each character is talking directly to you the reader about the things that interest them most; mainly their own lives, hopes, aspirations, loves, plans and doubts and, somewhat, their relations to the other characters. Being very human, it is always their own lives that are mainly of interest to themselves. So, how much can you stand of people talking about themselves? Probably not much, unless the people have interesting lives to talk about, and that is what you will get to decide if you read the book.You will follow the lives of the characters from childhood school days through their separate careers, to death for some of them. Each life is told in nine segments, interleaved, and set allegorically against interludes describing the image of the sun rising and falling throughout the course of a natural day."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."Thus do the first three characters introduce themselves and, scanning forward a few pages you see immediately that the unusual style will continue for quite a while, in fact, pretty much throughout the book, even though the paragraphs will grow in length. I will let Virginia Woolf herself make her appeal to you (from"How Should One Read?")"Do not dictate to your author, try to become him. Be his fellow worker and accomplice. . . if you open your mind as widely as possible, then signs and hints of almost imperceptible fineness, from the twist and turn of the first sentences, will bring you into the presence of a human being unlike any other.""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."Now you have met the six characters. Are you up to the challenge? Perhaps you will see some of yourself in each of those 54 vignettes of the character's lives. This book is, in fact, a story of people facing and living life.
deliriumslibrarian on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
For some reason, I just can't finish this book. It's like trying to catch the sea -- I read it, forget what I've read, go back, read again, get confused -- but can't get to the end. I love it, moment by moment, but looked at from afar it seems like a task. A challenge. When really it's the simplest thing in the world -- people thinking, being themselves. Or perhaps it's because I feel so much like Rhoda that I'm afraid for it to end.
misswinkle on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Probably my favourite of Woolf's amazing body of work, 'The Waves' is her most experimental piece; as such it is the one that deviates the most from the standard novel form; the language and structure of the novel are more similar to poetry than prose. It also, as with most modernist works, gives the most pleasure with repeated reading; a first reading just isn't enough to fully appreciate it.
dawnpen on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
"How tired I am of stories, how tired I am of phrases that come down beautifully with all their feet on the ground! Also, how I distrust neat designs of life that are drawn upon half sheets of notepaper. I begin to long for some little language such as lovers use, broken words, inarticulate words, like the shuffling of feet on the pavement." (p. 238)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A beautiful work. Bear with it for a few pages, it picks up.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Backlash More than 1 year ago
Amazing. This was my first Virginia Woolfe novel and after reading it she had me hooked. Original. Difficult? Yes. Worth the patience it takes to read? Very much. If u want to have to actually think and become actively involved in a novel this is for you.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
THE WAVES is a strong book from my point of view being a thirteen-year-old; I have read MRS. DALLOWAY and to me the two-books are complitly differnt. This book says alot more (maybe) because the thought, or dialouge--which is put in perenthasis--are strong, much like in the begging where they in-a-way discribe where they are at and what's around them--that was smart and realistic!! I like how she studies with not one or two charectors but six people! This is a good book that I recomand to a person that wants to close the last page happy, in shoke, thinking, asking, and wanting more.
Guest More than 1 year ago
There is no plot and no one complete character. However, together, the unique characters form a whole 'created' person (assumed by Bernard at the end). Percival is the false hero we all think we want and Bernard is the person we really hope to be. 'Against you I will fling myself, unvanquished and unyielding, O Death!'-one of the best endings ever.