Last Updated September 5, 2023.
The Waves is a novel by Virginia Woolf. The book is distinct for its experimental-style prose, such as the heavy usage of soliloquies by the main characters of the narrative. The first prominent theme readers discover in the story is the yearning for acceptance and the concept of the social outsider. This theme is personified by the character Louis. His ambition is to be accepted and find success. Another character who illustrates the theme of yearning acceptance is Neville. Unlike Louis, Neville concentrates his deep yearnings towards multiple men and their respective romantic affairs. Like Louis, he is trying to seek the acceptance of other people.
Another theme is changes, or entering a phase of life that is filled with uncertainty and new experiences. Susan enters motherhood, and she is both thrilled and scared by the new experience. In the same vein, Louis's journey towards success and acceptance is a new venture for him. Likewise, each new relationship Neville enters is a new chapter in his life. In a sense, the characters are in the process of metamorphosis throughout the story.
The other major theme of the story is how the characters perceive themselves. This is most evident in Rhoda and Louis. The latter is an outsider who seeks acceptance, whilst the former has anxiety issues and is always doubting her abilities and decisions. Rhoda also suffers from depression, which naturally affects her outlook on life and herself. In essence, the themes of self-perception and changes are intertwined. The new challenges and prospects in their respective lives are part of their personal metamorphosis.
Another prominent theme is the concept of consciousness. In fact, the narrative of the novel features multiple consciousnesses interweaving. This metaphysical element is present in other works by Virginia Woolf. One could argue that metaphysics is the overall, unifying theme of the novel, whether it is the concept of metamorphosis or exploring different layers of the consciousness.