Of the six main characters in The Waves, three are women: Susan, Rhoda, and Jinny, and each in a different way picture a different side of womanhood. Susan is the most "natural" of the three women. She comes from the country and only endures her years of education in order to return. She marries a farmer and becomes a mother, a role she seemed destined for from childhood.
Rhoda is quiet and dreamy, withdrawn from the reality of the world the others live in from early in her life. She is always a misfit, always trying not to be noticed, and yet she finds a romantic relationship in middle age with Louis. She is never quite happy with the role she plays, and eventually commits suicide.
Jinny is the most worldly of the three women. Her aim is always to be admired, to flit among the glamorous and to find not love, but lovers. She knows that her beauty and her power will burn out eventually, but she resists that future.