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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

The Waves primarily presents the lives and loves of a group of friends who first met in childhood.

Percival is a beloved friend of the main characters, who have known him since childhood. Notable mainly for his ordinariness, he has a pleasant, conventional manner and engages in normal activities such as sports. While he loves Susan, it is Neville who loves him. After entering the military, he is sent to India, where he dies.

Bernard is a writer who chronicles the other friends’ lives. His personality is malleable, and his apparent empathy draws others to him even as he tries to penetrate their psyches. Rarely finishing the stories he begins, he is frustrated by not progressing as a writer. Bernard is a stable husband and father. His best friend is Neville.

The shy, sensitive, handsome Neville is a poet and an artist. Eloquent and learned, he is prone to reciting classical poets, as well as Shakespeare. After the death of Percival, whom he loved, his world is turned upside-down; he seeks the company of younger men but also turns to Jinny for distraction.

Susan is an earth-mother figure, closely linked to nurturing and fecundity. Preferring the natural world and unstylish clothes, her rejection of pretense extends into vividly expressing her emotions. Susan, whose mother has died, is close to her father. Although Percival loves her, she loves Bernard.

The vain, brilliant Louis works in business, although he has intellectual leanings. Frequently on the outs with the other friends, he finally pairs up with Rhoda.

Rhoda is a plain, lonely woman whose lack of creativity makes it difficult to fit in with the artistic friends. She ends up taking her own life.

Jinny is presented as superficial and frivolous. Overly concerned with enjoyment and appearances, she lives for causing a stir. Her beauty and energy prove a burden, and she cannot age gracefully. She is presented as the embodiment of youth and spirit, in contrast to Susan’s representation of maturity and physicality.

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