What is the connection between fluidity and consciousness and the use of imagery in The Waves by Virginia Woolf?
The Waves is one of Virginia Woolf's most unconventional works. The novel describes the consciousnesses of six friends, beginning at the time that they are children.
The novel is considered "fluid" because rather than having a single narrator (or a single "focalizing point"), its narrative voice shifts between the consciousnesses of its six characters. This movement is so fast and subtle that it is sometimes difficult to tell in The Waves which consciousness is being represented in any one sentence. The book's fluid treatment of consciousness raises questions about identity, and the extent to which consciousness is constituted by oneself, versus within and between a group of people. As Woolf scholar Julia Briggs writes, The Waves, like many of Woolf's novels, is preoccupied with the question of "what makes up our consciousness when we are alone and when we are with others."
For this reason, a major visual motif of the novel is the ocean and the coastline. The action of cresting and breaking waves, in which the wave emerges from the ocean, articulates itself, and then disappears back into the ocean, is a beautiful visual metaphor for the questions of individual and communal identity that the novel explores.