The Waves is a journey through trauma, one that plays out collectively but also internally. It distills a set of lives into vignettes that are equal parts explosive and exquisite, each character reconciling themselves with senescence, change, and loss. “I have sons and daughters. I am wedged into my place in the puzzle” (p. 216) one of them reflects, content but also a bit crestfallen, realizing that the limitless potential of youth is no longer up for grabs.
While the journeys of each character are unique, it’s not merely the trauma that is shared. Woolf seems obsessed with conveying how crucial we are to one another’s formation. “Let me then create you. (You have done as much for me.)” (p. 85) If this is true, what then do we owe ourselves, our community? What’s is our responsibility–what does it mean–when it’s not merely you or me, but “…our life, our identity.”? (p. 277)