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Jinny lives her life utterly apart from concerns about the soul. She
thinks of herself as a body, first and foremost, interacting with other bodies.
From the first moment we see Jinny, kissing Louis among the bushes, she is a
creature of motion, surface, and physicality. More than once, Jinny compares
herself to an animal and the social world in which she moves to a jungle, in
which she is a huntress. She is aware of her own physical beauty, and her
greatest pleasure is in being able to pick a man from the crowd and summon him
with a gesture. It might sound from this description as though Woolf is being
critical of Jinny, but Woolf presents Jinny’s perspective as radically honest
and admirably direct. She is not an intellectual and prefers to relate to a
world of physical objects rather than ideas, but she is neither stupid nor
In her own way, Jinny is just as devoted to beauty and to her ideal of
life as someone more obviously idealistic, such as Neville. On the dance floor,
swept up in the communal whirl of bodies and music, Jinny feels unified with
something larger than herself, something like the flow of life. The problem with
Jinny’s ideal is that it cannot be sustained: music ends, beauty fades, and
attractiveness withers with it. Neville, Louis, and Susan are each deeply
concerned with making something that will last, and this, of course, Jinny
cannot do—this is the great failing of Jinny’s way of life. Catching a glimpse
of herself in a mirror, she sees that her hedonistic time is drawing to a close,
but she does not despair. Death is simply part of the bargain, and her attitude
is carpe diem—seize the day, and live while you can.
Ace your assignments with our guide to The Waves!