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Like Jinny, Susan is a strongly physical presence, and like Rhoda, Susan
is at least partially motivated by a desire to lose herself within a larger
force. But Susan wishes to engage with life through her body at the primal level
of generation and reproduction, and through this process to become one with the
growth of the land and of her home. From Susan’s perspective, Jinny’s life is
one of sterile—literally fruitless—activity, while Rhoda tragically resists her
body’s own desires. Susan walks her fields in the early morning, sensing the
awakening life all around her, and Woolf’s appreciation of the value and reward
of Susan’s choice is clear. Susan wants a productive, work-filled life that
fosters the land and nurtures others. Through her life on the farm, Susan is
seeking to find meaning in ordinary life.
Woolf acknowledges that sacrifice is involved in Susan’s life choice.
Susan has always been emotional and passionate, either hating or loving (or both
at once) most people she meets. As a mother, however, Susan must put others
first, and she thinks to herself that her greatest emotions will be for and
through her children, and most of her work will be on their behalf. At a certain
point, Susan realizes that the price of the fulfillment she has found has been
to lose herself within the role of wife and mother, becoming a generic,
de-individualized person even in her own eyes. Susan looks back longingly at her
youth and her first love, Bernard, whose phrases had always seemed too complex
and subtle for her. She thinks continually of Jinny and her comparatively free
existence. By the end of the novel, Susan’s life is shot through with regret,
and she even speaks, to Bernard, of her life as a ruined, wasted
Ace your assignments with our guide to The Waves!