Study Guide

The Waves

The Waves Summary

The story begins by introducing us to the novel's six (yup, you read that right) narrators, Bernard, Neville, Louis, Jinny, Susan, and Rhoda, who meet as children in a nursery. During this phase of the novel, we learn a lot about the characters' personalities and their relationships to each other.

After looking on as our new friends get embroiled in some kid-level dramas (e.g., trouble in math class and unrequited crushes), the six children head off to their respective boarding schools. At that time, the boys meet Percival, whom everyone seems to revere (and Neville falls in love with). The protagonists then all graduate and proceed into their adult careers (with a stop at university along the way, for some). At some point in there, Percival becomes friends with the girls as well, though we're not sure when that actually occurs.

The narrators' paths diverge quite a bit as the novel progresses. After enduring a stint in a Swiss school, Susan returns to her beloved hometown, gets married, and starts having babies. Meanwhile, Bernard apparently moves to Waterloo (that's not entirely clear, but Woolf drops some clues to that effect), and we're not entirely sure what he does there, other than shave and make up stories about pedestrians. Meanwhile, Rhoda, Louis, Neville, and Jinny go to live in London, and their life paths are all over the map: Louis works for a shipping company, Jinny is a socialite, and Neville is a classics professor (we don't learn Rhoda's profession).

Midway through the book, the friends meet up for dinner in London to see Percival off before he leaves to work in India, at which point Bernard announces that he is getting married. An unspecified amount of time later, Percival falls from his horse in India and dies, and our narrators are devastated. The death occurs just as Bernard's son is born, creating some serious cognitive dissonance for poor Bernard.

The characters then struggle with aging and reflect upon the progress of their lives and adulthood. Toward the end, they all meet up at Hampton Court and experience the aches and pains that come when old friends reconnect after a long time has passed.

The novel ends with Bernard talking to an apparent stranger, attempting to sum up the lives of the six narrators (i.e., the events of the novel) and work out his philosophies of language and life…and that's why the last chapter is fifty pages long. He reflects upon his lifelong struggle to turn his phrasemaking into something meaningful and, despite the major ups and downs he's experienced along the way, he resolves to keep on trying.

  • Chapter 1a

    • The novel begins with a description of an ocean horizon on the brink of sunrise. Because it is still dark, the sea is still indistinguishable from the sky.
    • The sky gradually lightens, creating a distinction between the water and the sky. As a result, movement in the ocean becomes visible (1a.1).
    • The sky lightens further, and the narrator compares the rising sun to a lamp that a woman crouching behind the horizon is slowly raising. The sun begins to send bands of color up into the horizon, like a fan's blades.
    • The surface of the sea becomes clearer, as the "dark stripes" in it begin to fade (1a.2).
    • Now, the sun is finally visible as a "broad flame," and the sea appears golden in the light from the risen sun (1a.2). Oooh. Purdy.
    • The sunlight strikes the trees in a garden as well and makes the contours of a house starker.
    • The sun streams through a blind into a bedroom in the house, where "all within was dim and unsubstantial." Meanwhile, the birds sing a "blank melody outside" (1a.3).
  • Chapter 1b

    • Someone named Bernard says that he sees a ring hanging above him, quivering in a "loop of light" (1b.1).
    • A girl named Susan then observes that she sees "a slab of pale yellow" spreading out to meet "a purple stripe" (1b.2). Okay, then… They sound like they're staring at a blacklight poster at 3 a.m.
    • Now we're joined by Rhoda, who observes that she hears a sound. Actually, it appears to be a series of sounds—cheeping and chirping, to be exact.
    • Neville (how many characters does this book have? Oh yeah, six main ones.) then says that he sees a "globe" (1b.4).
    • Another new character, Jinny, says she sees a "crimson tassel" (1b.5).
    • And then there's a dude named Louis, who says he hears something stamping. He says, "A great beast's foot is chained" (1b.6). (We're a half a page into this book, btw.)
    • After the characters introduce themselves with these fairly abstract observations, they proceed to marvel at their physical surroundings as they appear during the sunrise and the sensations they are experiencing.
    • Ah, it's a sunrise. A sunrise at Burning Man?
    • Louis gets back on his riff about the beast stamping, specifying this time that the beast is an elephant and, apparently, is on the beach.
    • Next, the characters turn their attention to a house nearby, which is also waking up. Someone in the scullery is washing a mackerel, smoke is rising from the roof, and a flock of birds get scared away when the scullery door is unbarred (except one, which remains to sing by the bedroom alone).
    • Ok, we're not at Burning Man. Could have fooled us, what with all the trippy colors and phantom sounds.
    • The children then observe more activities taking place at daybreak at the house. For example, there is someone named Mrs. Constable who is pulling up her "thick black stockings" (1b.24). More sensations; Neville hears a bee buzzing, and Jinny feels both hot and cold (apparently she's going in and out of shade and sunlight).
    • Suddenly, Louis finds himself alone, and in his inner monologue, likens himself to a plant. He says his "roots go down to the depths of the world" and his eyes are "green leaves, unseeing" (1b.35).
    • Are you sure this book doesn't take place at Burning Man? Louis sounds like he's wearing a whole lot of body paint.
    • While his imagination is running wild as he hides in the greenery, Louis watches Bernard, Neville, Jinny, and Susan (but not Rhoda) running around catching butterflies in nets. Suddenly, "she" (who?) spies him and kisses him. Louis is not happy, lamenting internally: "She has kissed me. All is shattered" (1b.36).
    • Suddenly, we're privy again to Jinny's thoughts. It seems she was the "she" who kissed Louis; she spied him in the bushes after initially thinking he was a bird.
    • Jinny sounds like she's wearing furry pajama pants and a raccoon tail. We're going to write The Waves II: Burning Man Boogaloo.
    • Uh oh, now there's drama. Susan saw the kiss go down, and she seems about as thrilled as Louis, probably less so—she's having a hard time keeping her temper. She immediately resolves to escape to the beech wood to deal with her feelings, where she claims she will eat, drink, and die. Well then.
    • Bernard sees Susan rush by on her way to the beech wood and notes that she seems on the verge of crying. He tells Neville he will follow her to be there for her "when she bursts out in a rage and thinks, 'I am alone'"(1b.39).
    • And that is what he does, following and watching as she falls down on the ground (Bernard thinks she tripped, but we know Susan intended to throw herself down). Susan explains to Bernard why she is upset and repeats her intention to die in the wake of her discovery. Bernard tries to get her to think about something other than the kiss.
    • However, Susan will not be deterred, emphasizing her single-mindedness when she has fixated on something. She says that she is tied down, while Bernard can "wander" and "slip away" (1b.45).
    • Nonetheless, Bernard insists that they explore the nearby estate, which we learn is called Elvedon.
    • As they go, he notes a stable boy and a garden where some ladies walk and clip roses at noon. They come to a wall, and Bernard invites Susan to peek over. On the other side, they see a lady sitting between two long windows and writing, as well as some gardeners.
    • As they peer at the lady, Susan remarks that if they died there, no one would bury them. Gee, she wasn't kidding about being single-minded—she is obsessed with death.
    • The gardeners apparently spot Susan and Bernard, causing Bernard to exclaim that they are about to be shot. They run until Bernard believes they are safe.
    • Meanwhile, Susan seems disenchanted with Bernard, saying he has "escaped" her (1b.52), trailing away and "making phrases" (1b.52). I guess she doesn't appreciate the wild stories he's telling. They return to the house, where they come across Rhoda rocking petals in a bowl of water, pretending they are ships.
    • Meanwhile, back inside Rhoda's mind, we learn that she is enjoying her game. She remarks that the others have gone inside, and that Miss Hudson is laying out their copybooks in the schoolroom, so she doesn't have much time left alone.
    • Oh. These kids are… kids. They're imagining stuff, not hallucinating. Phew.
    • Neville is now wondering where Bernard got off to with his knife, which they had been using to make boats until Susan came running by. He's not happy that Bernard has left him in a lurch. The bell rings, and he announces that they all must drop their toys and go in.
    • Now we're in the schoolroom, where Louis is inwardly refusing to conjugate a verb until Bernard does it (apparently, Louis is self-conscious about being Australian and speaking with an accent).
    • Louis gives us a rundown on the origins of his classmates. According to him, Susan's father is a clergyman, Rhoda "has no father," Neville and Bernard are the children of gentlemen, and Jinny lives with her grandmother in London.
    • He compares himself favorably to them. He's neat 'n' tidy and claims that "I know more than they will ever know" (1b.55). He notes that Susan, Neville, Bernard, and Jinny laugh at his neatness and his accent.
    • Susan, Bernard, Jinny, and Neville reflect on words as Bernard does his conjugation.
    • The class then moves on to math, a subject that Rhoda apparently hates. Miss Hudson puts a problem on the blackboard, and all the children solve it and are allowed to leave—except Rhoda, who says that she has no answer, and the figures mean nothing to her. The clock ticks on.
    • Louis watches Rhoda from outside, where the children are picking herbs and crawling around in the bushes. Meanwhile, Bernard is telling stories and inciting the others to pretend they are in a jungle. Through the leaves, they see Miss Curry and Miss Hudson pass.
    • Jinny reflects that Miss Curry will soon blow her whistle and they will have to go inside, which leads her into thoughts about the future. She thinks about when she and the other kids will part ways and go off to boarding school (apparently, she, Rhoda, and Susan are bound for a school on the East Coast). She compares someone's face to an apple tree (er, is that a compliment?), but it's not clear whose face is apple tree-esque.
    • Bernard notes that Miss Curry has blown her whistle, and his make-believe jungle world is slipping away. Miss Curry is about to take them for a walk, as Miss Hudson sits at her desk doing accounting.
    • The kids offer their respective reactions to the walk. Jinny finds it dull. Susan notes that Louis is picked to be in front because he walks briskly and isn't a "wool-gatherer" (1b.66).
    • Meanwhile, Neville says he has been left behind because he is perceived as too delicate for that kind of exercise. He uses the solitude to "coast" around the house (1b.67). Strangely, he says he might go stand in the stairway, precisely in the place where, the night before, he accidentally overheard someone talking about a man who was found with his throat cut. Neville seems to have had trouble moving on from that moment. Wow, these little kids are pretty obsessed with death.
    • Suddenly, we are back in Susan's mind (are you dizzy yet?), and the kids are taking their tea. She notes that she saw Florrie and Ernest (we're not sure who they are, but they were dealing with the wash—perhaps they are servants?) kissing in the kitchen garden. Susan watches them now at teatime, perceiving a connection between them as she imagines "hot steam" hissing up as they touch (1b.69). This prompts Susan to reflect that she isn't afraid of heat or of cold.
    • Susan watches the others as they finish up their meals. Bernard is molding his bread into pellets and calling them "people" (1b.69). Jinny plays her hands over the table as though they are dancers.
    • We're back in Louis's mind as the kids get up from their meal and gather around the harmonium. Miss Curry plays, and they sing together a prayer to God to keep them safe as they sleep. Louis notes that they are clasping hands and "afraid of much" (1b.70). He claims he is afraid of his accent, and Rhoda is afraid of figures – yet, they are "resolute to conquer" (1b.70).
    • Bernard notes that they then go upstairs to get ready for bed, and soon it is his turn to take a bath with the assistance of Mrs. Constable. After his bath, he dries off and heads to bed.
    • Rhoda takes off her shirt and dress, and in so doing, claims to "put off" her "hopeless desire to be Susan, to be Jinny" (1b.73).
    • She gets into bed and starts to have a dream about her aunt coming to get her. She wants to be woken up (guess she doesn't like her aunts). She likens being lost in the dream to being lost in the ocean.
  • Chapter 2a

    • As in the first chapter, we get an intro that focuses purely on a physical landscape. If the settings described here have any relationship to the narrators, the link is not explained. This is Modernism, duders: EIY (explain it yourself).
    • Things seem to be picking up where the first chapter intro left off. The sun is rising higher in the sky, and water is sweeping up on the beach.
    • In the garden, there are stripes of shadow on the grass, which the early morning dew makes sparkle "like a mosaic of single sparks not yet formed into one whole" (2a.2).
    • More sun is also reaching the house, illuminating the objects within. A flower's petals fall open in response to the light, shaking like bells as their innards beat against the petals.
    • The light makes everything appear "amorphous"; the china of a plate appears to "flow," and the knife is like liquid (2a.3).
    • Simultaneously, the "muffled" waves are breaking on the shore (2a.3).
  • Chapter 2b

    • We begin this chapter inside Bernard's head. He has said all his goodbyes, and leaves with his father and mother in a carriage. He is going off to school for the first time.
    • Looks like Bernard has to take a train there; he's suddenly in a train station. On platform 9 and ¾? Oh, nope. Wrong English book.
    • He appears to be a bit nervous and is trying to avoid crying. Louis and Neville are also there and preparing to leave. Bernard thinks they look "composed."
    • Apparently Louis isn't. He wants to follow Bernard because he looks "composed." They pass through the booking office to the platform and get on the train. They then watch the scenery as the train leaves London.
    • The boys present then start boasting about family members who are accomplished hunters. Louis feels he cannot join in because his father is a banker in Brisbane, and because of his accent. Aww, Louis. We think Australian accents are awesome.
    • Now we are back in Neville's mind as they arrive at their new school. Neville walks by the school buildings, imagining what they contain within (e.g., labs or libraries). He thinks ahead to his Latin lessons and lolling about in the fields and under trees with his friends.
    • He then sits and watches the Headmaster speak; he finds him "altogether too shiny" (2b.5).
    • Bernard isn't a fan of the Headmaster (whose name is Crane, we now learn) either, asserting that his words were "too hearty to be true" (2b.6). He also notes that it is the boys' first night away from their "sisters" (2b.6).
    • Meanwhile, back in the mind of one of those sisters, Susan laments that she is spending her first night at school, far away from her father. She mentions that a kitchen door slams, and "shot patters among the leaves when Percy fires at the rooks" (2b.7). Who is Percy, though, and what is he doing at a girls' school? She mentions that Rhoda and Jinny are off somewhere staring at someone named Miss Lambert (who sits under a portrait of Queen Alexandra). Susan is trying to avoid crying.
    • Now we're with Rhoda, who says that she and others are "herded" together in what appears to be a schoolroom. She remarks, "...here I am nobody," and she is also trying not to cry.
    • Someone give all these kids ice cream, please.
    • Jinny, meanwhile, is admiring a dark woman with high cheekbones who is wearing a shiny dress. She remarks that the dress is fine for summer, but thinks about the kind of dress she would wear in the winter, which would be "thin as a veil" (2b.9).
    • She then compares her imaginary dress to that worn by Miss Lambert, whose dress is "opaque" (2b.9). It's entirely possible that Miss Lambert is the woman with the high cheekbones, but Jinny does not specify.
    • Back with the boys, Louis notes that they are marching two by two into chapel. He admires the orderliness of the process, and says that the boys "put off" distinctions as they enter (2b.10). Louis admires Dr. Crane's authority as he mounts the pulpit and starts to read from the Bible, saying that Crane sets his mind at ease and allows him to recover "continuity" (2b.10).
    • Neville, however, calls Crane a "brute" who "menaces [his] liberty" (2b.11). He then leans over to pretend to scratch his thigh, allowing him to catch sight of someone named Percival (is this the Percy who was firing at the rooks? How is that possible?).
    • He describes Percival in detail, with particular reference to the peculiar way he "flicks his hand to the back of his neck" (2b.12). "For such gestures," Neville notes, "one falls hopelessly in love for a lifetime" (2b.12). He says that other boys try to imitate the move, but can't get it right.
    • Bernard—who, like Neville, has not been enjoying the sermon—declares that it ends "at last" and continues to describe Crane unfavorably (2b.13).
    • He then gets seriously meta, reflecting on the words and phrases he used to describe Crane and noting that he will carry a notebook later in life to capture such thoughts. He gets distracted thinking about the people around him, asserting that he "fails" unless talked to (2b.13).
    • Now we're back with Louis, who says they're moving outside to play, because it is a half-day. He says that some undefined "we" will lie around in the grass while "they" play cricket" and laments that he cannot join the cricketers. He watches Percival and compares himself to him.
    • Neville invites Bernard to "burble on" telling stories while they watch the cricketers (2b.15). He also describes Bernard, his recitation style, and his effect on others in greater detail.
    • Neville then notes Percival has joined them, guffawing and thereby allowing them to laugh as well. Neville says that both he and Percival are bored, which Bernard then notices. Percival says "No" to Bernard's attempt to jazz things up in his storytelling, causing Bernard's stories to trail off.
    • Yikes, poor Bernard.
    • Louis then says that he wants to try to fix this moment in time, saying, "This shall endure." They are all parting ways; some are going to "the nets," and he is headed to someone named Mr. Barker to show him an essay (2b.17).
    • However, he notes that Percival destroys this moment by trouncing away through the grass trailed by boy admirers. He claims he needs Percival for this endeavor, "for it is Percival who inspires the poetry" (2b 18).
    • Weird Modernist timewarp alert:
    • Suddenly it appears we've flashed forward in time and made a spatial leap, because Susan (whose head we are in) claims that they have run up "these" stairs for many months and years, and that it is now "midsummer" (2b.19)—June 25th, to be exact. She claims that while other girls are praying, she is tearing days off the calendar and working the paper into a ball.
    • She doesn't pray. She thinks of home, her father, and the land around her property.
    • Susan is also thinking about Jinny, who apparently is always dancing and capering about. She notes that someone named Miss Perry loves Jinny, and that her eyes "smoulder" with admiration for her (2b.20).
    • Jinny also mentions the looking glass, saying that she hates it because it cuts their reflections off at the head (and she doesn't think her face is pretty enough).
    • She compares her appearance unfavorably with Susan's and "even" Rhoda's (2b.21). She then describes skipping past that mirror to get to the full-length one, and she outlines the way her reflection appears there.
    • She then describes removing her "coarse" clothes, wanting to be the first to do so (2b.22). She puts on clean stockings and new shoes, and she ties her hair back, constructing an elaborate image of exactly how she will appear to others when she's leaping across the court.
    • She appears to be getting ready to play a sport of some kind?
    • Meanwhile, Rhoda sees her face in the looking-glass from behind Susan's shoulder, but ducks behind her to hide it, saying, "I am not here." She describes herself as living outside of the real world, constantly shifting and changing in ways that Susan and Jinny do not. Rhoda claims that they have real emotions, which she can only imitate (2b.23).
    • Rhoda also notes that the other girls resent her for copying them, though Susan will sometimes help her (e.g., by teaching her to tie a bow), whereas Jinny keeps her knowledge to herself.
    • Now the girls have apparently arrived at this game for which Jinny was dressing. Susan says that she and someone else (Rhoda?) are late and must wait their turn to play. While waiting, they lie down in the grass to watch Jinny, Mavis, Clara, and Betty play.
    • However, Susan now says she's actually going to refuse to be a spectator, because she hates watching people play games. Instead, she's going to go make "images" of everything she hates most and then bury them in the ground. To this end, she designates a shiny pebble "Madame Carlo," who is apparently a piano instructor Susan found to be too "fawning" and "ingratiating" (2b.25).
    • Susan then describes other things she hates (and even a few that she likes, like some trees). She apparently hates the school, saying she would bury the whole thing except for those aforementioned trees. Yikes.
    • As Miss Lambert passes while talking to a clergyman, Rhoda notes that her classmates laugh and imitate Lambert's hunch; yet, Rhoda finds things improved and even "luminous" in Lambert's presence (2b.26).
    • Jinny says that she has won her game, throwing herself on the ground to pant. She is apparently feeling pretty stirred up after all that exercise and reflects that she is beginning to feel like she wants to be "singled out" by someone who is attracted to her.
    • She fantasizes about the moment in which that person comes to her (2b.27). She eventually calms herself down, however, so that she can go in and have tea (how British!).
    • Now we're back with Louis, who notes that some young men he calls "the boasting boys" have driven off in a brake to play cricket. He describes these boys in detail, and his rundown is not favorable. But he says that he and Neville want to be them—typical.
    • All these kids are haters. They're also pretty insecure.
    • Neville says that Percival has gone off with the boasting boys, not even waving as the brake drove away. Neville asserts that Percival despises him for being too weak to play (although he is "kind" about it) and for not caring about the outcome of cricket matches (beyond caring that Percival cares, of course).
    • He appears ambivalent about Percival, alternately admiring him and then describing his "stupidity" and asserting that he will become "coarse" in old age (2b.31). He says that Bernard is also left behind; he could have accompanied the others but arrived too late to do so.
    • Bernard, for his part, calls the boasting boys "horrid" and yet also "beautiful." Since he can't go play cricket, he plays the piano while talking to Neville, telling him "the story of the doctor" (2b.33), which is his elaborate rendering of Dr. Crane's domestic life.
    • He trails off in the middle of the story, however, finding it too difficult to continue imagining his headmaster's private life.
    • Neville then says that he finds Bernard's stories amusing, but hates when he trails off like that, because it makes him feel alone. He says that Bernard's understanding is "blurred," so Neville can't talk to him of his "absurd and violent passion" for Percival (2b.34); he's too afraid it would become one of Bernard's stories.
    • Neville then gets sad about not having enough people to share his feelings with. He is struck by premonitions and describes his feelings of the day before.
    • Neville also thinks about wandering through nature for a while, but then realizes he really just wants to be alone in the firelight, and yearns for "the limbs of one person" (2b.35).
    • Meanwhile, Louis is standing with his hand on the door belonging to someone named Mr. Wickham, wishing for night to come. He contrasts fantasies of himself in more exalted positions (e.g., as a Duke) with unflattering references to his body and other aspects of himself.
    • Now we're back to Susan again. It's July 20th, and she says that in eight days, she'll be back at home again. She eagerly anticipates seeing her father, being at home, and wandering around outside her home.
    • She compares herself to Jinny, saying that, unlike her friend, she doesn't need admiration; rather, she just wants solitude. Susan fantasizes about walking around her house and property and what she would see on the way.
    • Now we're in Jinny's head. She describes her feelings as she wakes up, saying she hates darkness and sleeping and just waits for the day to come.
    • She says she is often scolded for idleness, and someone called Miss Matthews calls her "feather-headed." However, she claims she doesn't let it get her down, and that she can't be prevented from "pirouetting" around behind Miss Matthews, even going into prayers (2b.39).
    • Jinny also notes that the time is coming where she'll leave school, and she has a fantasy about her life then, including parties and being the sole object of a man's attention. She says she won't allow herself to get tied down to one man or, in her words, to be "pinioned" (2b.40).
    • Meanwhile, Rhoda is fantasizing about being able to go to bed, even though it will be several hours until she can do so. She says she pretends she's a Russian empress when she's getting ready for bed but admits this is a "thin dream" that Miss Lambert blows down (2b.43).
    • Rhoda then goes to take out a book to read, finds a poem about a hedge, and says she's going to go sit by the river to play with flowers. She describes having a variety of emotions and feelings she has in response to her activities and what she's looking at.
    • Suddenly, we are back with the boys in Louis's perspective, and he says it's the last day of term. He is watching Dr. Crane—who he totally looks up to—as Doc Crane sees the boys off from the school. Louis notes that Neville, Bernard, and he will not meet there again; "Life will divide us," he says (2b.45).
    • Now we're in Bernard's perspective. Oh jeepers, this perspective shifting is making us ill.
    • He describes the process of saying goodbye to the school, and like Louis, says that many of them will not meet again. De-pressing. He thinks back on his time there and the boys he knew, and he mentions that they are all set to depart tomorrow.
    • Modernist time warp alert:
    • Now the narrative jumps forward in time and into Neville's mind. Neville says that they are about to depart, noting that there are boxes and cabs nearby. He believes that Percival will forget him and fail to answer his letters (or might reply with a postcard if Neville sent him poems). However, Neville claims that it is "for" all that that he loves Percival. What? C'mon Woolf, let us in on the joke.
    • He predicts that Percival will leave his life, and Neville will move into others' lives. He says that "this" (by which he means their school experience, maybe?) was an "escapade," only a "prelude" to things as yet only "dimly perceived" that are drawing closer (2b.47).
    • Neville thinks about his future life, reflecting that he will always want to "push through curtains" to what is private, pursuing "whispered words alone." He also predicts that he will "conquer after huge suffering" (2b.47). We would consider this optimistic, if it weren't for the whole certainty-that-he's-going-to-suffer thing.
    • Now Neville says he's taking his seat in the train now, and he uses a book to hide his tears.
    • Back with Susan, it is the first day of summer holidays, but she's not home yet. She's fantasizing about being there and contrasting her visions of the hedges and fields that she will soon experience with the "carbolic" smell of school (2b.48).
    • Now she's thinking about how she will never send her children to school or spend a single night of her life in London. She's in a "vast" train station where "everything echoes and booms hollowly" (2b.49).
    • Hmm, perhaps these thoughts were inspired by the fact that she's being forced to pass through London on her way home? She thinks about the fact that Jinny lives and walks her dog here and makes some other observations about the city as her train departs. She starts to see and smell nature again, and soon she's reunited with father.
    • Jinny, meanwhile, is on a train going north, looking out the window and commenting the movement of the train. Also, she's checking out the guy who shares her compartment, and it appears he's checking her out too. She feels "heat and rapture" and lies back. When she looks back up (it appears she may have fallen asleep), the man doesn't appear to be there anymore; instead, she meets the gaze of a "sour" looking woman (2b.50). How disappointing.
    • Rhoda is on a train, too. Like the other girls, she notes that it's the beginning of the summer holidays. In addition to looking out the window, she's thinking about some kind of humiliation she experienced at a garden party in midsummer. She observes the other people around her and remarks that the train is climbing up and over a summit. She stares at the moors as the train goes over.
    • Louis says he is hanging "suspended without attachments" (2b.52). Like the others, he is on a train in some part of England. He remarks that his former classmates are headed to Oxford, Cambridge, or Edinburgh (or to other foreign destinations), while he is going off to make money. He also notes that he is in a third-class carriage. He then proceeds to make some other more general, abstract (Abstract? In a Virginia Woolf novel? Surely not!) reflections regarding the past and the present.
    • He thinks about the "boasting boys" at school, some of whom appear to be with him on the train (and are living up to their name by boasting a lot). Neville is on the train too, but reading a French novel.
    • Louis pictures Neville and himself in the future, saying that he himself will sit behind a counter, grow bitter, and mock these other boys. However, he also claims to envy their security as they continue in the "safe traditional ways" while he has to "consort with cockneys and clerks" (2b.52).
    • Whoa, it seems Bernard is there, too. He notes that Louis and Neville are sitting silent, and Bernard conjectures that they feel the presence of other people as a "separating wall." In contrast, Bernard claims to enjoy being in the company of other people and is feeling quite chatty.
    • Thus, when an elderly and apparently prosperous man enters their carriage, Bernard wants to approach him, saying he doesn't like separation. Bernard claims he wants to add to his collection of observations, presumably by talking to this dude.
    • He thinks about some book he will write that will be quite long, and which will "[embrace] every known variety of man and woman" (2b.54).
    • Bernard then gets the gentleman in the car to start talking and begins to infer things about his life. As usual, he manages to get surprisingly specific. He imagines this dude is a builder who is an indulgent husband, but not faithful. He thinks the guy's name should be Walter J. Trumble.
    • Bernard makes other reflections and observations about himself and the way he reacts to things, contrasting himself and his reactions with Neville's. He also describes Louis in greater detail.
    • Bernard now says they are approaching a junction, where he will have to change trains for Edinburgh.
    • He's having trouble finding his ticket, but he's not super worried about it.
    • Suddenly we're back with Neville, who notes that Bernard is gone, but without a ticket. Neville reflects upon on how easily Bernard talks with all kinds of men, speculating about B's feelings toward the people he talk to.
    • Neville sees Bernard on the platform, having missed his train, waving goodbye. Neville says it doesn't matter because Bernard will just go talk to the barmaid about human destiny. Because of course he would.
    • Now Neville is back to reading his book, raising it so it nearly covers his eyes. But he claims he can't read in the presence of horse dealers and plumbers (the very people Bernard is so skilled at talking to). He says that he doesn't have the capacity to ingratiate himself (2b.57).
    • Neville claims that he's going to go take "refuge" at a university, become a don, and then go to Greece (so, we guess he's planning to be a Classics professor).
    • Neville thinks upon particular aspects of his personality and compares himself to Louis, noting that, unlike our favorite Aussie, he doesn't waste time worrying about what people think of his father.
    • Neville also makes observations about the world outside the train and thinks about Percival, who is on his way to Scotland. He guesses that Percival is probably reading a detective novel. Meanwhile, Neville's own train slows down as it arrives in London, and he thinks about how he is about to start an adventure as he steps out on to the platform.
  • Chapter 3a

    • The sun is continuing to rise. The light is almost piercing the waves as they spread over the beach in a fan shape.
    • The hollows of the waves are darkening and deepening, leaving twigs and cork on the shore as they recede (3a.1).
    • Now we're in the garden. The birds are singing together in a chorus, swerving together, until a black cat moves in the bushes and a nearby cook (whoa, a person!) throws out some cinders, startling them (3a.2).
    • Apparently fear is in their song; they are singing "emulously" and are swerving above the elm tree (3a.2).
    • They land and sit silently on the wall, looking all around. They are intensely aware of one thing, a particular object (which is unnamed here). The narrator suggests that perhaps it is a snail shell, flowers, or some other aspect of the garden surroundings (3a.3).
    • Modernism: not big on explanation.
    • Now the birds are looking deeper, beneath the flowers into the "unlit" world, where there are rotting leaves, dead flowers, and various other decaying and gooey things (3a.4). Birds with X-ray specs?
    • One of birds breaks away to attack a worm and leave it to die (3a.4). What a jerk.
    • The narrator goes on to describe this scene of decay beneath the flowers, where the birds are picking at all the dead and decaying things on the garden floor (e.g., rotten fruit) (3a.4).
    • Inside the house, the rising sun is coming in the window. The narrator describes the effect of the light on the room's objects, including the plate, the knife, the chairs, the cupboards, and the looking glass, which is whitening (3a.5).
    • The narrator notes that the "real" flower on the windowsill has a phantom twin (3a.5). This maybe means the one in the looking glass, but it is not clear because Modernism.
    • The wind rises, and the waves "drum" on the shore. The waves are compared to warriors with poison spears who are attacking sheep (3a.6). Wow, this chapter intro/interlude has been pretty savage. Savagely difficult to understand.
  • Chapter 3b

    • In this chapter, we start off with Bernard, who seems to be reflecting upon the increasing complexity of life… and of this novel. Never mind, that's just us.
    • Every hour, he notes, something new is being "unburied" (3b.1). He's asking that eternal question: "Who am I?" and doesn't seem to be getting very far.
    • He thinks about the complexity of his public and private identities, and how those two are not the same. He seems to think that he has to adopt a variety of different poses in order to be "Bernard" (3b.1).
    • We feel you, Bernie.
    • Bernard reflects upon his capacity for empathy with others, mentioning someone named Symes, who he could tell was trying to make a good impression on a dude named Billy Jackson. To make Symes feel better, Bernard invited him to dinner (3b.1).
    • Quoting an imaginary biographer of his life (Oh, Bernard . . . ego much?), Bernard explores his motivations for extending this invitation. He continues in this navel-gazy way for a while, literally talking to himself, comparing himself to other men (who seem to have more equilibrium and simpler pleasures in life than he does) and exploring his own motivations further (3b.1).
    • Bernard also notes that he and Neville are similar in that they are too complex to let their minds be "roused by any single activity" (3b.1).
    • Bernard then resumes his musings about himself. In particular, he's thinking about a letter that he's started to write several times but hasn't been able to complete. He's thinking of giving it a go again (3b.2).
    • Oooh, it's a letter to a girl. He's obsessing a lot about how to present himself; he wants the letter to have the air of being off the cuff while still suggesting intimacy. He contemplates the topics the letter might mention, including a man who drowned (um, perhaps Bernard needs some romance pointers) and someone named Mrs. Moffatt and her "sayings" (3b.3).
    • He also compares himself to Lord Byron. He still hasn't started the letter…
    • …And apparently he decides not to. He says he can't get up "steam" enough to do it. He seems to feel a disconnect between his "real" self and the self he's trying to present to her, and he fears that she'll think he's a poser. So he resolves to write the letter tomorrow after breakfast (3b.4).
    • Sure, you will.
    • He then fantasizes about being invited down to some country estate, which appears to be where his young lady friend lives, and imagines how that visit would go (3b.5).
    • He then resumes navel-gazing, comparing himself and his own propensity for trying to make art with that of the "real novelist," who is "perfectly simple," can go on imagining indefinitely, and doesn't integrate things as Bernard does. Bernard says he needs the stimulus of other people, ostensibly unlike a real novelist (3b.6).
    • Bernard thinks it's been a pretty good day. He thinks about the morning, when he went for a walk. He says he was dramatic at dinner, but we're not sure what that means.
    • He then contemplates his own identity (again) asking himself who "comes" when he calls out his own name to himself, seeming to believe that he has several different selves. But he does seem to think that one man in particular "responds" to that address, an ageless "sardonic" man who is now siting in his room poking the fire and talking to himself. Then he says he is going to bed (3b.7).
    • Good call, Bernie. Sleep off that introspection binge.
    • Now we're with Neville, who reflects that the process of naming things changes them. He seems to be sitting on a riverbank staring at boats. He sees someone who reminds him of Percival and watches him/her, reflective (3b.8).
    • Like Bernard, Neville is thinking a lot about his interactions with language and how/when he feels inspired to use words and write. He thinks to himself that he is "surely" a great poet (so, no ego there, we guess). However, like Bernard, he wonders if he has some kind of flaw that prevents him from being a great poet, and he reflects that he doesn't know himself well (3b.8).
    • Now, Neville is reflecting upon the effect of friends and friendship on people as another person approaches. It's Bernard. (3b.9).
    • Clash of the introverted arteests!
    • For some reason, things are weird between these two. Bernard says that he and Neville are looking at the willow tree together (3b.10).
    • He feels Neville's disapproval and claims that he becomes an "untidy" and "impulsive" person when he's with him. He says he's anxious to regain Neville's good opinion (3b.11).
    • Bernard says that he's just pulled Percival out of bed and describes the process of doing so. Neville laughs at the story, even though he is inwardly preoccupied by some "private sorrow" that's not explained (3b.11).
    • Bernard continues babbling on to Neville, all the while inwardly reflecting on the effect his way with words has on others and thinking that he is "delighting" his listener. However, he suddenly realizes that Neville is not listening; in fact, in Bernard's view, Neville is using tiny gestures to "ask" Bernard to stop talking (3b.11). Bernard seems to think that Neville wants to be asked why he's down in the dumps.
    • Bernard says that he's going to "create" Neville now. It's possible he means that he's going to create him by describing him, because that's what he proceeds to do: He describes Neville lying on the bank watching those boats and says that Neville wants to be a poet and a lover.
    • He also notes that Neville is intelligent and honest, which makes Bernard feel a bit squirmy, as it makes him more aware of his flaws. Finally, he claims that Neville doesn't indulge in mystifications (3b.12).
    • Bernard then asks whether he was right and has read Neville's gestures correctly as a signal to stop talking (3b.13). It's not clear whether this is the same kind of internal dialogue we've been getting throughout the main narrative so far or an actual question posed to Neville because Modernism don't play that. In any case, we don't get Neville's answer.
    • Bernard wants Neville to let him look at his poems and invites him back to his room. They notice shop girls along the way there (3b.14).
    • They get back to Bernard's room and talk over a fire and some tea. Neville notes that Bernard has been reading Byron and makes a point of saying that Bernard is not like Byron (okay, relax, Neville—we know Bernard's ego is huge, but no need to be rude).
    • Neville contrasts himself with Bernard and his penchant for imitation, saying that he just likes to be himself, unlike our man B. Oh ouch. This is getting brutal.
    • Apparently now Bernard is babbling and not listening again. This gets Neville agitated, because he is apparently trying to expose a "secret" that no one has ever heard (okay, now we want Bernard to be quiet, too—what's this secret?!).
    • Also, he wants Bernard to tell him if he (meaning Neville) is always going to be so repulsive to other people. Yikes. While all this is happening, Neville becomes nervous that Bernard is going to muck up a copy of Don Juan he sees laying around, so he hides it on a shelf (3b.18).
    • Finally, Neville appears to get fed up, throwing his poem at Bernard and running out of the room.
    • Left alone, Bernard thinks a lot about their interaction and his own identity. He imagines what Neville is doing right now, and—ooooh—notes that Neville is in love. He imagines Neville at home poking his own fire… Wait, what? Why do we feel like that's a metaphor for something else?
    • Bernard then makes a strange statement: he says that Percival, Tony, Archie, or some other boy will go to India and that they won't meet again. He goes into some detail imagining what Neville is doing, and it's not entirely clear if this is what Neville is doing, pure imagination, or something in between.
    • Modernism, guys. Deal with it.
    • Whoa, there's a party outside. Bernard hears a bunch of rowdy boys smashing china and jumping around in the street in the October wind. These rowdy dudes almost knock over a woman carrying home a bag. This moment prompts more reflections from Bernard about how he's different from Neville. He speculates that Neville's reaction to this (and ability to "see" this woman) would be way different from his own.
    • Now Bernard is thinking of Louis. Specifically, he wonders what Louis would make of this whole scene with the party boys outside. He notes that Louis is now working in an office, even though he was the best scholar back in their school days.
    • Meanwhile, Louis, who identifies himself as an average office clerk, is having a meal in a restaurant, reading a poetry book, and people-watching through the window. He claims to feel like he is pretending to be a normal Englishmen (3b.25-26). Nonetheless, he still feels like an outsider, asserting that he wants to be loved but feels "alien" (3b.25-26).
    • Louis compares himself to others as he watches the people around him. He thinks the scene is kind of aimless and wants to somehow make it more orderly (3b.28).
    • He reflects some more on his own qualities and the past, including Bernard, Neville, and Susan. Then, after watching a waitress come by, he stands up, slips a tip that he describes as too large under the plate, and peaces out, not wanting the waitress to see it while he's still there. For some reason, he thinks she'll scorn him.
    • Now we're back with Susan, who's inside her house chilling and listening to a bird sing early in the morning. She reflects upon being sent to school in Switzerland to finish her education.
    • Now she's outside, leaning on a gate and watching her dog, thinking about her identity and what is unique about her.
    • She says that her lover is going to come midday. Ooh, la la. At that time, she says, she will give him what "has formed in her," and they will have children (3b.32).
    • She thinks about what her future life will be like, starting with the rest of the day. She thinks of serving her father tea later.
    • She goes back to her house, gets out sultanas, and starts making bread. She paints a very domestic scene, giving us more details about her daily life and the natural landscape (which is in full bloom) around her house.
    • She thinks of her friends Jinny and Rhoda and what their lives in London must be like. She also thinks about the fact that Jinny kissed Louis back in the day—wow, hold a grudge much?
    • Now we're back in Jinny's mind. She's traveling through the city streets, noting that windows are dark and the day is over. She's looking sharp: wearing silk, a necklace with stones, and shoes that pinch her feet—sounds like she's on her way to a party.
    • She gets out of the car and enters a building. She checks herself out in the mirror to make sure she looks okay. She then enters, reflecting on her appearance, and her name is announced.
    • She checks out the scene around her (including the other attendees), saying she is "native" there (3b.39). She also reflects upon herself.
    • Now there's some guy checking her out. She beckons him over to her. They dance and talk, connecting rather intensely for a little while.
    • However, she then says that "slackness and indifference" suddenly take over for them (3b.42), and she thinks to herself that she also likes blonde-haired, blue-eyed men (maybe this guy is a brunette?). So, it appears she's moving on…
    • Now she continues people watching, including some observations about other women there. She soon has another interested suitor on his way over to her.
    • Apparently, Rhoda is at this party as well, and now we're in her mind. She is not comfortable, but she feels she needs to be there and play the social game a little bit.
    • Unlike Jinny, who claims to be super in her element at this shindig, Rhoda feels clumsy and out of sorts. Jinny is cued in to of all kinds of male interest and Rhoda feels only indifference from the dude she's talking to.
    • Rhoda makes other observations about the scene and her internal state. She fantasizes about rocking her basin as a child, picturing herself as mistress of a fleet of ships. Also, she watches Jinny dance, thinking about how self-assured Jinny and Susan are.
    • Rhoda goes out on a balcony and looks around the streets from there, offering her observations about the scene. She continues to think about how she fits into this world she observes. She predicts that she is to be "derided" all her life (3b.46). She also reveals that she's not even twenty one (so maybe things will get better?). She doesn't think life is looking too sunny, apparently, contrasting herself to others and framing herself as an outsider.
  • Chapter 4a

    • The sun has completely risen now and is shining out over the waves, which are sweeping and pounding the beach. The sun is also falling on fields and woods.
    • Now we're in the garden, where there are trees, ponds, flowerbeds, and greenhouses. There are also some birds singing. Hmm, that seems peaceful.
    • Each bird is kind of doing its own thing while singing: one is tweeting away under a bedroom window, another is on a lilac bush, and another is on the edge of a wall.
    • Apparently, each one is singing passionately, not really caring if his/her song clashes with that of another bird. So much for peaceful. This sounds like the world's worst alarm clock.
    • The birds apparently take breaks from singing to fly down to the ground and use their beaks to pick at soft/wet/dead things laying around there. Ew—okay, definitely not very Zen.
    • Now the birds are flying around a bit before perching again and staring down.
    • The sea can be heard in the background, beating "like a drum" (4a.2). The narrator compares the waves to "a regiment of plumed and turbaned soldiers" (4a.2). Hmm, what's with the war imagery, and why "turbaned" warriors?
    • Meanwhile, sometimes the birds' songs come together, and at other times they separate.
    • Now we're inside "the room" (presumably the same one referred to in other chapters). The narrator describes the objects in the room and how the light entering affects them. For example, the white plate is now a lake, and the knife is a dagger made of ice.
  • Chapter 4b

    • We start out with Bernard, who seems to be staring out of a train window at London, checking out all the scenery (chimneys, gasometers, cathedrals, etc.). He says he's on an early train from the North. Aww, Bernard says he's engaged to be married.
    • He addresses some unknown person as "Dear Sir," asking why he is fidgeting. It appears he's speaking to someone else in the car.
    • Bernard reflects on his connection to this other passenger, having taken the train all night with him. He claims to feel some kind of communal feeling with his fellow passengers. He doesn't want that feeling of connection to end.
    • Bernard describes proposing to his fiancée and offers various other reflections as he's waiting to get off the train.
    • Bernard has now exited the train and is waiting for the elevator. Everyone who was on the train scatters, breaking that communion Bernard had felt in the train. He compares himself to these people and reflects on the feeling of becoming more individual again.
    • He also appears to be thinking about death, describing how, when he's about to step off a curb, his body stops him from falling into danger. He thinks about being mortal, reflects upon his sensations as he walks around, and watches the people around him.
    • Despite some gloomy thoughts about death and mortality, Bernard seems to think that getting ready to get married and have kids has kept the Grim Reaper at a distance, as it is allowing him to "seed" another generation (4b.5). Eew. Our two least favorite words are "seed" and "moist."
    • He thinks about what these kids would be like, and his defeated mood seems to lift a bit; he feels the potential to contribute to some kind of progress.
    • He reflects on his feelings and identity some more, indicating that he doesn't really feel like himself and can't remember all the things that make him him.
    • Then he says that something "returns," and suddenly he's not part of the street scene he's been walking through, but observing and wondering about other people and his surroundings, inventing stories about them (4b.6). That sounds like the old Bernard to us.
    • Then he goes back to thinking about what makes him unique (e.g., his need to make phrases). He contrasts himself with Louis and Rhoda, who are most themselves in solitude (whereas we know Bernard needs others around). Dude's definitely back in his usual groove.
    • He thinks about the other narrators as well, noting that they are going to meet tonight for dinner. There, they are going to say goodbye to Percival, who is leaving for India.
    • Now he's in a French restaurant, watching people (and, as always, feeling impatient with being alone). He offers miscellaneous reflections.
    • Now we're with Neville, who has arrived early to the restaurant where the friends are supposed to meet up. He watches the door obsessively, waiting for Percival. He says other diners are staring at him, and he feels a sense of cruelty and indifference from the world surrounding him.
    • Neville sees Louis walk in and check himself out in the mirror. He thinks Louis looks dissatisfied with his appearance. Neville makes some observations about Louis and claims to quote what Louis is thinking/saying to himself (though how he could know this is unclear, since Louis is across the restaurant…). Louis then arrives at the table.
    • Now we're inside Louis's head as he remarks on Susan's entrance. He observes that she has chosen not to dress up for the occasion. Susan makes her way to the table after catching sight of her friends.
    • Louis then notes that Rhoda has come in unobserved, taking a circuitous road around the room, apparently to stave off the moment of being recognized.
    • Meanwhile, Neville is still watching the door, eagerly awaiting Percival.
    • Now we're with Susan, who is watching Jinny enter. She observes that everything kind of stops and centers around Jinny when she walks in; indeed, she and the others start adjusting and/or worrying about their appearance. Susan feels like Jinny is going to scoff at what she's wearing.
    • Now we're with Neville again. He sees Bernard enter the restaurant (wait, wasn't Bernard already in a restaurant? Was that another one? Stop messing with our minds, Woolf.), his hopes that it would be Percival dashed yet again.
    • Bernard comes to the table. Neville seems relatively happy to see Bernard, but notes the group won't be complete without Percival.
    • Now we're in the head of Rhoda, who's also watching the door and contrasting herself with Susan and Jinny (in terms of their effect on others). She notes Neville's misery as he watches the door, waiting for Percival. And lo, she then notes that Percival has finally arrived.
    • Back in Neville's mind, things are a lot better; he's super jazzed to see Percival.
    • The others also observe Percival's arrival and reflect on him and his effect on others. He appears to have a calming effect on the group, drawing them together like birds in song (hmm, sounds like the introduction to this chapter. Tricky, Woolf—very tricky), according to Bernard.
    • Also, Bernard just casually lets drop that Percival loves Susan. Say what?
    • Louis declares an end to solitude now that Percival is there.
    • The narrators then reminisce about childhood and their school experiences (it is unclear whether they share these thoughts aloud or if they remain internal).
    • Louis then reflects on how they've all changed quite a bit.
    • Neville, for his part, remembers the day he and Bernard sat by the river together, and he later gave Bernard his poem.
    • Louis and Jinny, meanwhile, are thinking about their lives now.
    • Bernard then reflects on the friends' connection to each other. Neville and Louis follow suit, thinking about the significance of being able to come together in a group like this.
    • Louis resumes thinking about his own feelings of inferiority. He notes that he has skipped lunch so that he might score some sympathy from the girls for being too skinny. He says he admires Susan and Percival but "hates" the others because of feeling like he needs to impress them. He "speaks" at length about how the other narrators make him feel (4b.41).
    • Jinny seems to respond to Louis's internal thoughts (we assume they are internal—would he really tell most of the people present that he hates them?) by saying he could never hate her, because he would always want her sympathy. She then reflects on her effect on others, thinking particularly about when she entered the restaurant that night.
    • Neville then "responds" to Jinny (again, it's not quite clear whether this exchange is actually verbalized or somehow internal), saying her propensity for commanding attention shuts true intercourse down. He then reflects on various aspects of himself and his effect on others, contrasting himself with others.
    • Meanwhile, Rhoda is experiencing a feeling of being not quite whole.
    • Susan then thinks about her effect on the room when she entered that night. She also imagines what the rest of her life will be like and contrasts it to the lives of her friends. She says she hates Jinny for making her notice her chapped red hands. She also says something a bit odd about the object of her love being able to slip away using a phrase. Hmm, is she talking about Bernard?
    • Now Bernard is thinking about himself, his feelings about words, and his inability to deal with solitude. He thinks about Louis and Rhoda and offers some memories of Neville and Susan. He also notices that some of the "boasting boys" from school are in the restaurant.
    • Finally, he compares himself to the others, drawing favorable and unfavorable comparisons.
    • Rhoda, Jinny, Louis offer miscellaneous observations about their surroundings.
    • Now Neville notes that Percival is leaving.
    • Bernard imagines India and Percival's life there.
    • Rhoda reflects upon the impact Percival's impending departure to India has had, indicating that it allows them all to envision more of the world. She imagines him riding around on a "flea-bitten" mare (4b.54).
    • Louis asserts that Percival makes the group aware that the narrators' attempts to differentiate themselves have been "false," suggesting that he is a kind of uniting force among them (4b.55).
    • Jinny and Susan reflect on hate and love, with Susan explicitly wondering whether those emotions can actually be distinguished from each other. Susan reports feeling as though they are looking into roaring waters as they engage in these reflections, a sentiment that Neville then echoes.
    • Neville seems to be thinking about Percival again (it's a bit ambiguous, but has Neville obsessed about anyone else to date?), and specifically about how it feels to lose sight of him and then have him return. Hmmm… why is he fixated on losing Percival? And why are these people always so glum?
    • Now we're back with Jinny, who apparently has made another love connection, beckoning someone from across the room. It's not entirely clear, however, whether she's remembering this event or it is actually happening right there and then.
    • Oh, Louis and Rhoda seem to be observing this love connection, so it seems to be happening in real-time. Rhoda notes that she hears drumming and sees dancing, imagining the scene as some kind of festival at which people are throwing violets at a great procession, and someone who is "beloved" gets decked with garlands. Sounds like a wedding.
    • Louis continues her thought, saying he is observing some kind of "savage" ritual; he notes, "They dance in a circle" (4b.65).
    • Rhoda then says that, as she and Louis watch the scene, they "forebode decay" (4b.66). Eep. Louis seems to agree, saying, "Death is woven in with the violets" (4b.67). Hmm, again, that seems pretty morbid.
    • Meanwhile, Jinny is apparently quite cheerful, oblivious to all this gloom and doom that Louis and Rhoda perceive in her little mating ritual. Also, she drops in there that she and her friends are not yet twenty-five years old. So young, so beautiful, so freaking depressing.
    • Louis makes some unflattering observations about "him" (by which he presumably means Jinny's suitor), remarking on "his" red ears in particular.
    • Neville is now thinking about what the group will do next after dinner. He seems to feel generally hopeful, saying, "All is to come" (4b.70).
    • Bernard "responds" to this (again, we don't know if this is inward or outward dialogue), saying "For you… but yesterday I walked bang into a pillar-box. Yesterday I became engaged" (4b.71). Sounds like he's really looking forward to married life.
    • Susan then contemplates her surroundings and notes a new feeling of fixity, of things being set, now that Bernard is engaged.
    • Louis agrees that he feels fixedness in that particular moment and invites someone (the reader?) to observe it before it is dispelled and "disorder" resumes (4b.72).
    • Louis then notes that the moment does break. He, Rhoda, and Bernard provide their observations as it does.
    • As they are about to leave, however, Louis notes that a "circle in [their] blood," which breaks often due to their differences from each other, closes again and "something is made" (4b.77). He, Jinny, Neville, Susan, Rhoda, and Bernard then reflect on all that is contained, in their view, in this moment or "globe" of communion (4b.77-82).
    • Bernard then describes everyone preparing to leave. Sad times.
    • Neville declares that he is in agony when the cab comes and takes Percival away…
  • Chapter 5a

    • The sun is at its full height now and fully visible. It's shining upon the sand and making the rocks on land super hot, bringing out color and sparkle in the physical landscape.
    • There are houses, a mosque, and a village, which the sun also lights up. Also, there are white-haired, "long-breasted" women by a river, beating out their laundry on stones (5a.1). Hmm, where are we?
    • There are also some steamers floating through the sea, and the sun is beating through canopies onto the steamers' passengers (whoa, more people).
    • Meanwhile, the sun is also beating down on land, passing over the hills and into riverbeds. The water level appears to be evaporating in the heat of the sun. The washerwomen can't even get the clothes wet.
    • Meanwhile, there are also some skinny mules wandering around through the stones.
    • The narrator describes the effect of the light on the landscape and the objects there (natural and otherwise). In so doing, s/he is talking about a huge amount of space, referring both to "the hills" of an unnamed location and those further north.
    • Now we're back in "the garden" with some birds (it's not stated explicitly that this is the same garden as in previous chapter intros, but one might assume it is). They're singing a song meant for "one ear only" (5a.3) before stopping. The garden is now in full bloom.
    • The sun is striking "the house," and as in previous chapter intros, the narrator describes the effect of the midday light on the objects within the room (again, we can guess that this is the same room referred to previously).
    • Now we're back at the ocean, where the deep blue waves are breaking on the shore. The narrator compares their rippling to that of the backs of "great horses" and the rhythm of their cascade to that of a beast stamping. There's that beast again (5a.5).
  • Chapter 5b

    • Uh oh. This chapter begins with Neville declaring, "He is dead." He says that "his" horse tripped, and "he" was thrown. And Neville is totally devastated. Hmm, wasn't Percival supposed to be riding horses in India (5b.1)?
    • After crumpling the telegram delivering the news, Neville imagines the scene of the accident and reflects on the many examples, prior to this point, of the person in question leaving him and then returning. Oh dear, this does sound like Percival. Neville stares out at the street at life continuing, totally oblivious to his grief.
    • Neville then contemplates how to go on, noting that he feels profoundly alone. He imagines how the death could have been prevented and says that this dead friend would have "done justice" for another 50 years, had he lived (5b.4).
    • Finally, he provides the name of the person who has died: unfortunately, it is Percival. Neville watches a boy almost fall as he boards a bus and then notes that Percival who fell and died. He continues to be stunned.
    • Meanwhile, Bernard is torn between feelings of grief over Percival and happiness, as his son has just been born. Like Neville, he reflects on the world going on without Percival.
    • Also, he tries to imagine where Percival's body is (and in what condition), and he thinks about Percival more generally. He attempts to process this huge blow and considers how life goes on from here. He also thinks about what remains of Percival, now that he is dead.
    • Then, Bernard thinks about daily routines and "sequences," and asserts that he refuses to go along with them right now in the wake of this tragedy (5b.12).
    • Bernard now visits a museum, staring at "cold Madonnas" (5b.12). He thinks of Percival, saying that these pictures somehow bring his friend back to him. He contemplates Percival's meaning to him and compares himself to his departed friend.
    • Bernard then imagines his own funeral.
    • Finally, Bernard is getting tired of being outside of the "machine" of normal routines and sequences, exhausted from being "glutted" with emotion (5b.16). He thinks of the other people who are suffering in the wake of Percival's death, naming Neville in particular.
    • However, he doesn't want to be with Neville right now, because he wants to laugh and resume the rhythms of normal life a bit. So he resolves to go visit Jinny and "do penance" for refusing to go to Hampton Court with Percival years ago (5b.16). (No, you didn't miss something—this is the first time this "slight" on Bernard's part has been mentioned.)
    • Now we're in Rhoda's perspective, and she's reflecting on her own emotions and observations in the wake of Percival's death (and as is often the case in this novel, they're pretty abstract). She resolves to pick violets, bind them together, and provide them to Percival as an offering.
    • Rhoda then asserts that Percival has given her some kind of gift through his death, revealing a "terror" and leaving her to "undergo this humiliation" (5b.20-21). Hmm, doesn't sound much like a gift. Wonder what that means…
    • Rhoda offers more reflections on the world around her (which, peppered with words like "impure," "greedy," and "coarse," seem fairly negative) and expresses feelings of solitude (5b.21).
    • She goes and buys stockings, asserting that she "could believe that beauty is once more set flowing" (5b.22). Guess she really likes stockings?
    • Now she arrives in Oxford Street, observing her surroundings, thinking of her friends, and imagining their reactions to Percival's death.
    • Then, she contemplates where to go next, considering a museum or Hampton Court. But instead, she arrives in a music hall and settles into the audience, listening to a woman sing.
    • Later, Rhoda reflects on language and its attempts to describe, lamenting the difficulty of determining "the thing that lies beneath the semblance of the thing" (5b.26). She indicates that Percival's death has given her access to this "thing" beneath representations.
    • Rhoda thinks some more about Percival, and then notes she's going to take a trip to Greenwich. There, she sees ships about to depart for India (just like Percival's did), and she throws her "offering" of violets into the river.
  • Chapter 6a

    • The sun is no longer in the middle of the sky, and there are clouds.
    • The tops of the trees are "crisped" in the sun and blowing in the breeze (6a.2).
    • There are birds again, and they're flicking their heads side to side. They've taken a break from singing.
    • The narrator proceeds to describe the rest of the environment near "the house," which we assume is the same house described in previous chapters.
    • Now we're looking at some windows and into "the room" at the objects in there, which are, as in previous chapters, transformed by the way light strikes them at this time of day.
    • Meanwhile, the waves are still a-poundin' away, crashing on the shore and getting a previously dry cave wet. Also, upon receding, they apparently left a fish stranded on land.
  • Chapter 6b

    • We begin this section in Louis's mind. He appears to be working in his office and contemplating how his life has taken shape as a "full-grown man" (6b.2). He describes his daily routines and the office where he works.
    • Louis claims to have achieved a certain stature, standing among men such as Chatham, Pitt, Burke, and Sir Robert Peel, thus "expunging" the stains and embarrassments of the past (good grief, he's still thinking about his accent) (6b.4).
    • He also thinks about when he used to sit around in restaurants reading poetry, indicating there is a tension between his desire to express himself and create and the bustle and commitments of his professional life.
    • Louis thinks about the fine things that will come his way through his work (e.g., a house in Surrey), but he also notes that he retains an attic room from which he can still people-watch. He says that Rhoda sometimes comes there because they are lovers. Oooh, that's a bit of juicy gossip.
    • Now he's thinking about Percival, Susan, and Neville. He also thinks about his identity, you know, because he's a character in this novel. That's just what they do.
    • Now, because it's 6 p.m., Louis is leaving the office and making some conversation with Miss Johnson along the way. As he goes, he thinks about his attraction to other corners of London (i.e., public-houses by the river) and how he must remind himself of his work in order to regain his "sanity" (6b.9).
    • Suddenly we're with Susan, who is sitting by the fire in her house and reflecting upon the passing of time. She repeatedly implores an unnamed person to sleep and sings to him/her.
    • Then, she reflects on how she has changed, and it appears she's trying to sing her baby to sleep (6b.12).
    • Next, she provides details about her daily life around the house. She must not be getting out much, because she says she can only tell what season it is by whether there is steam or frost on the window. That doesn't sound like the Susan from earlier in the book, who so enjoyed being outside.
    • Apparently, Susan has gotten super domestic, and she describes all the intense protective feelings she has toward her child. She goes into some detail imagining the life he will have.
    • She then resumes thinking about how her life has taken shape and her daily routines. She notes being "glutted with natural happiness" (6b.15) and thinks about all the kids and grocery items (no joke—she mentions hams and onions, among others) that are in her future.
    • Now we're with Jinny, who appears to be chatting with someone for the first time and doing some people-watching. She reflects a bit about herself, noting that she is now past 30 and still not settling too long anywhere in particular (or with anyone in particular). When she raises her arm, men still come running.
    • She continues people-watching, claiming to know all kinds of random things about the people who surround her—for example, she claims one is a judge and another shot his governess through the heart when he was younger. The person she's sitting with also tells her things about the people who surround them. It is unclear whether they are making this stuff up, Bernard-style, or they actually know these things. She thinks about what's in store for the people she's watching.
    • Also, Jinny reflects on the difficulty she experiences in taking all her observations and distilling them into something else, making the curious statement "I cannot tell you if life is this or that" (6b.21).
    • She then says that her body, which has been her "companion," beckons her (6b.21). Wait, was she talking to herself that whole time? She's confused about whether she raised her arm or made some other kind of signal, but it appears someone is now following her. She goes outside into the night.
    • This pursuit continues, and Jinny says it is as if the "beasts of the forest were all hunting." Suddenly, one such beast "pierces" and "is driven deep within" her (6b.22). Since we're pretty sure a Kodiak grizzly bear is not actually chasing her, we have to assume this is a metaphor for something else…
    • Woolf cuts out before things can get too graphic, and now we're back with Neville, who's staring at a clock and thinking about how time passes.
    • He then addresses some unnamed person (what is with these people not introducing us properly to their guests?) who's sitting there with him. He indicates that being there with this person "is all" (6b.24).
    • He describes the effect this person has on him, noting the "splendour" that lives gain "under the eyes of love" (6b.24). Whoa, Neville's in love again. Neville describes the day he just spent with this person, from breakfast to walking around together. Aww, that sounds sweet.
    • Now he's remembering thinking of Percival during this walk, which prompted him to think, "For ever and ever, I swore" (6b.25). Hmm, was he feeling a bit disloyal? This thought prompted him to clutch his new companion's hand, but the companion then left, leaving Neville to wonder if he would ever return (we think Neville might have some abandonment issues). Luckily, we learn this new lover did return later. Huzzah for love.
    • Neville then proceeds to reflect upon how he and his lover spend their time together and the way they communicate. He compares himself to his new companion and other individuals (including Louis). He is also careful to point out the uniqueness and particularity of his companion, emphasizing the lover's importance to Neville.
    • Not one to let an "Aww" moment like that linger, Neville then imagines what would happen if his companion someday left and didn't come around again or was caught checking out other people.
    • In such instances, Neville says he would go and find another companion. For now, however, he implies that he wants to stop time from marching on and beckons his companion to come closer.
  • Chapter 7a

    • The sun is getting lower in the sky now, and the waves have receded further from the beach. There are also clouds blocking the sun, making the rocks on the shore seem black.
    • Birds are flying around, and one goes and perches on a stake, opening and shutting its wings.
    • Some petals have fallen off flowers into the garden, where wind intermittently blows through. Some flowers get blown over and remain bent.
    • Afternoon sun spreads over the fields, making shadows bluer and the corn redder. The narrator describes the field, the animals within it, and the clouds rolling over above, as well as a distant horizon that includes a windowpane and a steeple.
    • Now the narrator describes a window and a room, presumably the same ones mentioned previously. The objects within the room are being browned and reddened by the afternoon light.
    • The narrator asserts that, in this moment, "all . . . bent in uncertainty" (7a.6).
  • Chapter 7b

    • We begin this chapter back with Bernard, who is thinking about time passing. He says that he started thinking about this topic while shaving the week before, prompted by the habitual nature of this action.
    • He seems to have fallen into a bit of depression upon having those thoughts, thinking to himself, "I have lost my youth" (7b.1).
    • Indeed, Bernard asserts that he lies around for days in bed after he has realizations like these, as they allow him to see "bare bottom," giving him access to "what habit covers" (7b.2). It's not entirely clear, but it's implied that these moments have occurred for him more than once.
    • Apparently, his most recent musings about time passing and the true nature of things inspired him to go buy a ticket to go to Rome. Now he's sitting outside in a Roman garden, returning to (surprise, surprise) his favorite topic: "What Makes Bernard Distinctive."
    • Bernard notes that he's in one of those states of detachment that sometimes overtake him, which he despises.
    • Bernard then reiterates how much he needs other people, and he thinks about how his life has developed (e.g., things lost and gained as time has passed). He thinks about the things he will never get a chance to do (e.g., go to Tahiti) and reflects upon what he has spent his years doing (i.e., raising a family). He notes that, in this process, the "truth has come nearer"; the "veil" that "familiar ritual" held in front of his eyes has fallen away (7b.4). He then proceeds to ruminate upon the progression of his life, and if/where it has led or is leading. In particular, he reflects upon the attempt to get at true or pure meaning in language.
    • While all this is going on internally, he seems to see an old school friend. Who is it?
    • He seems to start feeling more like himself, and phrases start to "bubble" up again (7b.7). Suddenly, he feels like maybe he could go to Tahiti.
    • He goes to get lunch, resolving to resume observing people in his usual fashion. Also, he realizes the name of the school friend he's just seen is Larpent.
    • Now we appear to be back in England with Susan, who reflects on the way her own life has progressed. From her description of her daily activities, it seems that her life has revolved around childrearing and gardening/farming.
    • Susan reveals she is standing outside with gardening shears, saying she is now tired of "natural happiness" and "the unscrupulous ways of the mother who protects" (7b.13). That domestic bliss was short-lived.
    • She then thinks about the past and events that occurred when they were children, reflecting upon how her life then contrasts with her life now. She thinks of her friends, specifically Rhoda and Percival.
    • Now we're with Jinny, who, like the others, is reflecting on her advancing age. Though she asserts she is in "the heart of life," she's not super jazzed about having aged and wondering if the men will still coming calling if she raises her arm (7b.17).
    • However, she then collects herself, arranging herself while she looks in the mirror and declaring, "I will not be afraid" (7b.19). She resolves to go home and prepare herself for a visitor, whether it is one of her old friends (e.g., Bernard, Neville, or Louis) or someone new.
    • Now we're with Neville. Apparently he, too, is feeling his age, noting that he is no longer young. He passes Jinny's house and sees a young man fixing his tie nervously on her doorstep.
    • As Neville passes along, he thinks about how things have changed. He reflects on his own processes of discerning meaning in people and his physical surroundings.
    • He then claims to enter "some room," where there are people talking and a child is dancing. Neville takes a book and reads (7b.24).
    • What happens next is quite ambiguous. He says that Rhoda or Louis (or some other "anguished spirit") passes through the room, and Neville says, "They want a plot, do they? They want a reason? It is not enough for them, this ordinary scene" (7b.25). He then thinks about how Rhoda and Louis are different from him, wanting violence and pursuing access to some kind of perfect truth.
    • He then resumes talking about what he's doing in this mysterious room he's entered, where he's reading and listening to the people there. He reflects upon the effort necessary to read the poem while he sits in this room with other people talking.
    • Now Neville claims the others have left the room, and he is alone. Having listened to the conversations that took place in that room, he now listens to the sounds of London and, soon enough, the sound of someone approaching his door. He beckons the unnamed person to come in.
    • Now we're with Louis, who describes returning home from the office. Apparently, he's quite the big-shot now; he notes, "I am immensely respectable" (7b.28). He lists some staples of material wealth that he will soon obtain, including a house in Surrey.
    • However, despite his success, he notes that he still returns to his attic room and sits down to read poetry. He intersperses his reading of lines from a poem with his own reflections regarding how his life has progressed and about his friends. Along the way, he mentions having an unnamed mistress.
    • He then thinks of Percival and Rhoda, noting that the latter has left him. Hence the mistress, we guess?
    • Meanwhile, Rhoda claims to be climbing a mountain from which she will see Africa. She talks about how much she has hated life and human beings, and how she just kind of gave in to the things she despised rather than fighting. Sad.
    • She thinks of the past and her friends, including Louis, Jinny, and Susan. She also thinks of the day Percival died.
    • She now notes that the hill she's climbing is Spanish, and she's actually riding a mule. She decides she'll pretend that the mule's back is a bed, and that she's dying. Umm…
    • She then says that they "launch out now over the precipice," and she describes what lies below (e.g., ships and water). She imagines reaching the water and having the waves overtake her. Rhoda, nooooo.
    • Whew! What happens next seems to imply that at least some of the preceding was a fantasy, as the chapter ends with Rhoda knocking on the door of a Spanish inn. We're glad Rhoda appears to be okay, but what actually did just happen?
  • Chapter 8a

    • The sun is sinking. Having been "robbed of light," the waves look like grey stone as they come ashore (8b.1).
    • There's a breeze rustling the leaves. A hawk takes off from its branch, and there are sounds of plover in the marshes crying. Also, smoke from chimneys and trains is rising into the sky.
    • The corn is now cut. An owl launches off an elm tree. There's a still pool of water, now undisturbed by animals. Meanwhile, a bird is perched on a twig while drinking cold water from an unnamed source. There's also a bone lying on the ground. Finally, there's a tree bending in the wind that has lost its foliage.
    • The narrator now speaks from a place so remote that no roof or window can be seen. Clouds and rain are what remain (though there is the occasional "darting spear of sunshine"), and there are some lone trees on distant hills (8a.7).
    • Now the narrator describes how objects in a room (again, presumably the same room referenced in previous introductions) appear in the evening sunlight.
    • Meanwhile, on the beach, shadows get longer and the waning light is transforming the colors of the objects and landscape there.
  • Chapter 8b

    • We begin with Bernard, who announces he is at Hampton Court. He says, "This is our meeting-place." Hmm, whose?
    • Ah, now he says that Susan, Rhoda, Neville, Jinny, and Louis are all there, too—reunion time. He describes his emotions as he approaches them (they are waiting by the door of an inn). Then they all enter the inn together.
    • Now we're with Neville, who notes they are all sitting together at a table. He describes the group as they take account of each other and themselves, asking each other, "What have you made of life?" (8b.4). He says that they are now middle-aged.
    • Neville claims to search in his pocket for his "credentials" to prove that he has "passed" (8b.4), but then somehow finds this "proof" inadequate in impressing his friends. (As elsewhere, it's hard to tell how literally to take exchanges like these.)
    • Neville says that when the friends meet, there is always someone "who refuses to be submerged; whose identity therefore one wishes to make crouch beneath one's own" (8b.5). He claims that, for him in this moment, that person is Susan, so he feels the need to impress her. As part of this effort, he considers the features of her life and his own, comparing them (it is unclear if he does this inwardly or outwardly). He attempts to allay some perceived hostility on her part and assert his own "belief" in himself. He contrasts his insights/perspectives to Susan's (8b.7). He also thinks of how others perceive him and the past, including Percival.
    • Susan then offers what seems to be kind of a rebuttal to Neville, saying she "discredits" him "in order to be herself" (8b.9). Like Neville, she paints her own life in rosy colors, underscoring the wisdom this life has brought to her.
    • Once she has finished, she says that she and Neville have completed some kind of "necessary prelude" which is "the salute of old friends"; she describes it as akin to the crashing of antlers (8b.10).
    • Bernard now considers how much things have changed. In particular, he thinks about how much more effort is required to bring the friends together to meet and how little they think about each other, typically.
    • Then, like Neville and Susan, he does his own self-evaluation, outlining his unique characteristics and the insights and philosophical gains he has achieved. He compares this philosophy, which he claims is kind of all over the place, to Louis's pursuit of "unalterable conclusions upon the true nature of what is to be known" (8b.15).
    • Now we get Louis himself describing his pursuit of meaning, which he suggests has been repeatedly beat-down and continues to be frustrated (because so-and-so laughed at him, or because of the boasting boys making fun of him). Like the others, he thinks about his own unique qualities, motivations, and desires.
    • Now Jinny pipes up, making the case for the life she's chosen for herself and comparing it against Louis's. She reiterates that, though she grows old, she is unafraid.
    • Rhoda finally joins the fray, describing the complex web of emotions that have shaped her attitudes and relationships throughout her life. She thinks of how she has changed, and she distinguishes herself from the others.
    • Once dinner has finished, the friends leave the restaurant and appear to be walking toward gardens, trying to get in before they close. Louis invites Rhoda to hang back with him as they walk along.
    • As they walk through this place, which is steeped in English history, some of our narrators think about their "English past," as Bernard calls it (8b.35). Neville is apparently feeling particularly patriotic, imagining himself as a subject of George V.
    • Meanwhile, Louis is getting emotional while walking along with his hand in Susan's (while leaning on Jinny), and Bernard is walking arm-in-arm with Neville. Louis thinks back to when they would sing together before bed as children.
    • The friends then seem to share a moment of connection and unity. Aww!
    • Now Neville disappears with Jinny and Bernard with Susan, leaving Rhoda and Louis alone. Rhoda says the others are moving toward a lake.
    • Louis and Rhoda then offer an array of observations about the night and their emotions at that moment. The others return and do the same as they reassemble as a group of six.
    • Bernard offers some further reflections on their surroundings (and life in general) as the friends part ways, and he ends up on a train back to Waterloo.
  • Chapter 9a

    • The sun has completely set. The sea and sky are indistinguishable, as in the very first chapter.
    • Leaves fall from a tree and land to await decay on the ground. The garden is dark, and the thrush is silent.
    • The narrator describes the effect of the light on the objects in the room (presumably the one referenced earlier).
    • The hills have lost their substance, and the narrator says that the darkness is coming as though in waves over the land, blotting out everything in its path. Yikes.
  • Chapter 9b

    • This chapter is all about Bernard. He opens by saying that he's going to sum up the meaning of his whole life. He claims to be addressing someone he doesn't know… but who he might have met once on a ship to Africa. Wait, what? When did Bernard go to Africa?
    • Apparently this dialogue is happening at a table, where Bernard sits pouring wine and they are about to eat. He claims that he's going to tell his drinking buddy a story; he says, "…In order to make you understand, to give you my life, I must tell you a story—and there are so many, and so many—stories of childhood, stories of school, love, marriage, death, and so on; and some of them are true" (9b.2).
    • Bernard then proceeds to recount memories of his childhood with the other narrators. He describes how each of the narrators developed a separate identity, noting the painfulness of this process of separation. Bernard is careful to note that he's escaped some of the "excesses" to which his friends fell prey (9b.5).
    • He then thinks about Percival, including how he was at school, his death, and the man he would have been.
    • Next, he thinks of Louis, describing their relationship and giving an overview of his friend's personality and life trajectory. He then does the same thing in discussing Neville. Finally, he contrasts his own preferences and ways of dealing with the world to those of these two friends.
    • Bernard moves on to thinking about Jinny, Susan, and Rhoda. He also thinks about how much he himself has changed, contrasting his changing nature with the endurance of the willow tree by the river… which he remembers sitting near with Neville, Percival, Jinny, and others.
    • He offers a series of memories sprinkled with his own observations about life and its progress, as well as some pieces of life philosophy. He sounds like an old coot.
    • He even imagines how his now-deceased biographer (wait, Bernard actually did end up with a biographer? Is he famous?) would describe some of the events of his life.
    • Now, Bernard makes a bit of a shift, talking about the many different Bernards that have existed throughout his life.
    • He continues to reflect on how life progressed and developed for him, noting that Percival's death "crashed" into a life that had previously been "pleasant" and "good" (9b.30-31).
    • He remembers how he reacted in the wake of Percival's death (both emotionally and through his actions) and all the reflections it inspired. He describes having a "disillusioned clarity" in the wake of that event, asserting, "I was like one admitted behind the scenes: like one shown how the effects are produced" (9b.31).
    • He then indicates that, in order decipher "the incomprehensible nature of this our life," he turned to his friends (instead of priests and poetry, which were the possible alternatives, according to him).
    • He describes visiting Susan in Lincolnshire that summer after Percival's death and getting bummed out by seeing her life there. He says he felt stopped in his tracks afterwards, no longer inspired by everyday life to make poetry. However, eventually he says that his resolve to "Fight! Fight!" returned (9b.38).
    • He describes the way time passed from there, life being once again "pleasant" and "good" (9b.40).
    • However, after a certain amount of time, he says he felt that "Time has given the arrangement another shake" (9b.41). He says he went in search of Neville. It appears that they mostly talked Shakespeare, until it became clear that Neville was waiting for someone else, and Bernard departed.
    • He then describes having gone to visit Rhoda and Louis (all the while contemplating the nature of their relationship because of course he did: he's Bernard), but they weren't at home.
    • Next, he thinks of Jinny and Susan and the group of friends more generally. He makes a curious statement about not knowing how to distinguish his own life from that of Jinny, Louis, Rhoda, Susan, or Neville. What does that mean?
    • He then remembers that dinner at Hampton Court, when everyone started out fairly uncomfortable and eventually settled in and "stopped comparing" (9b.49).
    • Still thinking of Hampton Court, Bernard remembers walking after dinner and separating off from Rhoda and Louis. He recalls being unable to recover from a feeling of "dissipation" that had overtaken him in that moment (9b.50). He wonders whether that moment might have been a kind of death. What the what?
    • He then describes feeling "pinioned" and "powerless" in the wake of this moment (9b.52); indeed, it seems he felt kind of dead, saying, "We are cut, we are fallen" (9b.52).
    • However, he then went to get a haircut (that always cheers us up) and got all curious about the barber and his perspective on life, which seemed to snap him out of it. Hmm, it seems like Bernard's moods are pretty dependably up and down.
    • After pulling himself out of his latest crummy mood, he says he was interested in going to find Rhoda but found that she had killed herself. Um… what? That's so sad!
    • Fresh from his new haircut and this sad news, Bernard walked by St. Paul's cathedral and entered. There, he thought about Louis, did some people watching, reflected on his reaction to the cathedral.
    • He then left the cathedral and kept walking. He muttered poetry to himself, thought about the past, and pondered his own identity. In particular, he thought of a moment he spent leaning on a gate by a field (he does not specify exactly when or where this transpired, but says he was old at the time), in which he considered his regrets and attempts to talk to some other part of himself. Describing this moment, he says, "I spoke to that self who had been with me in many tremendous adventures; the faithful man who sits over the fire when everybody has gone to bed" (9b.57).
    • Unfortunately, however, this "other self" made no reply, Bernard says, causing him to feel "complete desertion" and as though "Now there is nothing" (9b.58). Bernard likens that moment to an eclipse.
    • However, as in the past, his gloom eventually lifted and he felt as though he were entering a new world, a world that he now saw "without a self" (9b.64). He describes his reaction to this "new" world and contrasts it with his memory of sitting "on the turf somewhere high above the flow of the sea and the sound of the woods" and looking at "the house, the garden, and the waves breaking" while an old nurse turned the pages of a book and said, "Look. This is the truth" (9b.65).
    • Apparently all this was on Bernard's mind when he arrived to eat at a restaurant that night and met his current dinner companion, inviting him to dinner on the spot.
    • Now, they've apparently finished their meal, and Bernard ponders the existence of everything around him, asking if the city outside the restaurant is London or Paris, doubting the reality of the tables and other objects in the room, and considering whether the supposedly six different narrators he has been describing are all just part of him.
    • He asks, "I have been talking of Bernard, Neville, Jinny, Susan, Rhoda, and Louis. Am I all of them? Am I one and distinct? I do not know. We sat here together. But now Percival is dead, and Rhoda is dead; we are divided; we are not here. Yet I cannot find any obstacle separating us. There is no division between me and them. As I talked I felt, 'I am you.' This difference we make so much of, this identity we so feverishly cherish, was overcome" (9b.68).
    • Talk about a twist—they were all the same person all along?
    • Bernard proceeds with more observations and reflections. He moves quickly from laying claim to some kind of privileged perspective to saying feels like a "nothing but... an old man" when he catches his dinner companion's eye (9b.73).
    • However, soon things cycle back around as they wait for the bill, and Bernard claims he can once again see "complexity and the reality and the struggle" (9b.76), and he thanks his companion for helping to enable this turnaround. Huh. The previous moment he was cursing him for making him feel old. Oh, Bernard, you fickle beast.
    • Now Bernard is alone, and his book of phrases (which he predicts will be swept up in the morning) has fallen on the floor. He says he has "done with phrases" (9b.79). Uh, yeah, haven't we heard this before?
    • Also, he's reflecting on how awesome it is to be alone. Is this really still Bernard? He claims to wish to continue sitting there indefinitely in the restaurant, all alone.
    • But the waiter finishes his own dinner and wants to close up, so Bernard finds he has to leave.
    • He's pretty grumpy about being forced out into the street, as he's old and tired. However, he notes that "There is a sense of the break of day," and suggests evidence of "the eternal renewal" in the way the sky looks and the sounds and sights of the world around him (9b.83).
    • He says, "And in me too the wave rises," and he claims to ride against his enemy, which is death (9b.84).
    • The novel ends with him resolving to continue fighting this enemy. There is also one final italicized line (in the style of the chapter intros) announcing that the waves were crashing against the shore.