Characters

Susan

Characters Susan

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 thing.