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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 376

The Waves, by Virginia Woolf, is a novel published in 1931. This novel is divided into nine different sections, which correspond to various parts of the lives of the six main characters: Bernard, Neville, Louis, Jinny, Susan, and Rhoda. The first section of the novel is about the characters' childhoods and time at school. The second section of the novel is about their adolescence. The third section of the novel is about the characters' times as young adults. The fourth section of the novel takes place at a dinner party. The fifth section of the novel discusses the death of a friend of all of the characters. The sixth section of the novel describes the characters as adults. The seventh section of the novel presents the characters as middle-aged. In the eighth section of the novel, the characters meet again as adults. In the final section of the novel, Bernard ponders the lessons that he and his friends have learned in their lives.

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All of these characters meet as very young children in a nursery. Each character has his or her own personality, and the reader learns more about how the characters interact with one another through this first section of the novel. When the children go to boarding school, the boys attend one school and the girls another. The boys meet a new character named Percival, who becomes friends with all of the six main characters. Neville especially likes Percival.

As an adult, Susan gets married and has children. Louis, Rhoda, Neville, and Jinny all move to London. Louis is employed at a shipping company. Neville becomes a professor. Jinny becomes a socialite. Bernard moves to Waterloo, but his exact profession is unknown. Percival tells his friends that he is moving to India, and Bernard declares that he is getting married.

Readers learn that the mutual friend who dies is Percival, who falls from his horse while in India. Right around the time Percival dies, Bernard has a son.

The novel ends with Bernard reflecting on his life and the relationships he has made along the way. He tries to decipher his own philosophy of life and comes to the conclusion that his life has had ups and downs but that he will always continue trying.

Summary

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1167

The waves roll shoreward, and at daybreak the children awake. Watching the sunrise, Bernard, maker of phrases and seeker of causes, sees a loop of light—he will always think of it as a ring, the circle of experience giving life pattern and meaning. Shy, passionate Neville imagines a globe dangling against the flank of day. Susan, who loves fields and seasons, sees a slab of yellow, the crusted loaf, the buttered slice, of teatime in the country. Rhoda, awkward and timid, hears wild cries of startled birds. Sensuous, pleasure-loving Jinny sees a tassel of gold and crimson. Louis, of a race that had seen women carry red pitchers to the Nile, hears a chained beast stamping on the sands.

While the others play, Louis hides among the currants. Jinny, finding him there and pitying his loneliness, kisses him. Suddenly jealous, Susan runs away, and Bernard follows to comfort her. They walk across fields to Elvedon, where they see a woman writing at a window. Later, in the schoolroom, Louis refuses to recite because he is ashamed of his Australian accent. Rhoda is unable to do her sums and has to stay in. Louis pities her, for she is the one he does not fear.

The day brightens. Bernard, older now, yawns through the headmaster’s speech in chapel. Neville leans sideways to watch Percival, who sits flicking the back of his neck. A glance, a gesture, Neville realizes, and one could fall in love forever. Louis, liking order, sits quietly. As long as the headmaster talks, Louis forgets the snickers at his accent and memories of kisses...

(The entire section contains 1543 words.)

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