This blog is a combination of information compiled as an element of a seminar course revolving around Virginia Woolf.

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Waves and Neville

The Waves is a tricky novel that leaves the reader slightly confused, but also slightly enlightened. While these two concepts are normally in opposition, Woolf has a sneaky way of enticing both emotions within the reader. When thinking about an overall theme of the novel, I realized that Woolf highlights the importance of both the individual and collective ideas of consciousness by leaving traces of her ideas for the reader, but no idea is clearly mapped out or outwardly displayed. However, I was left with the sense that is the way that Woolf intended the novel to be received. As a reader, our own consciousness is not enough to decipher the unique diction and structure of the text; we must collectively analyze the work using the combined brainpower of multiple forces. Maybe Woolf wanted her readers to have a sense of individualism and a sense of unity much like the characters in her novel. Each of the characters seems incomplete in the reader’s eyes; therefore, Woolf seems to be subtly hinting at the inaccuracy of a single human’s abilities. I think the novel comments on the need for unity of humanity.

Aside from this idea concerning the overall meaning of the text, I had several more specific thoughts concerning Neville. When first reading Neville’s lines, all I could envision was the character of Neville from the Harry Potter series. However, I quickly realized that The Waves Neville and Harry Potter Neville are two very different characters. Woolf’s Neville is very refined and somewhat tightly wound. He was the character I was assigned to follow; therefore, I kept a close eye on his movements and behaviors and by the end of the novel felt as if I could almost predict the content of his soliloquies. One portion of Neville’s character I found particularly interesting was his devotion to art. His whole life seemed to be centered on it. He was the only character to actually become a successful poet and I think that is partially because of his devotion to the art. He seemed to go through a whirlwind of ups and downs concerning Percival’s death and his string of lovers, but art and poetry seemed to remain the only constant force. This reminded me a lot of the portrayal of art in To The Lighthouse. The painting was one of the only forces that stayed constant from beginning to end much like Neville’s devotion to becoming a poet stayed constant from beginning to end. In this way then, we as readers can see the pedestal upon which Woolf holds the writings of poetry and creation of art.

Also through Neville’s character I think we may see some of Woolf’s personal commentary on religion. (I would really like to research and find out more about her beliefs or lack thereof). Neville seems to hate the ideals and beliefs of traditional religions especially Christianity. He seems to think that Christians are depressing and only see the negative functions of the world whereas the Greeks and Romans see the positive portions. This love for the Greeks and Romans may relate back to his obsession with poetry/art because Greeks laid the foundation for these activities. Art and poetry flourished in part because of the Greeks so we may see a connection between Neville’s condemnation for religion and praising of art.

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