Like some of you, I got caught in a thunderstorm after last Friday's class. My copy of The Waves, which was swam inside my purse, took quite a beating; the book dried into a wave shape with corners watercolored with the periwinkle from the cover. I admit that I rather like it when design of an object reflects its function or content but the rain distorted some of my markings present inside. The rain especially targeted the last page of Bernard's soliloquy since the traces of words written in my light blue V5 pilot dispersed into blossoming water marks. I can't decipher what I originally wrote, which is rather appropriate since I find the the concluding section an especially perplexing component of The Waves.
I could argue that Bernard's soliloquy is Woolf's version of bildungsroman for the lost male who finally achieves his destined role as a patriarch. After all, Bernard takes over as the sole voice of the concluding section. While the other voices distinguish themselves against others, Bernard is most capable of self-reflection and defining himself without necessarily comparing himself to the others.
Yet, I referenced to the "self" three times within the last sentence and it is precisely this issue of "the self", self-identity and being that is such a struggle for Bernard: "Let me cast and throw away this veil of being." (p. 218) For a character who has just taken over as the dominant being in the concluding section of work, Bernard seems more concerned with abandoning his self-identity rather than relishing in his maturation into a complete individual. Though he is appointed as the one to reflect upon the others and to stand as an individual at the moment that the sun sets over the waves, Bernard's reflection is a cumulation of experiences bound into the story of one life. Then the waves break on the shore and Bernard's being disappears.
The last line of The Waves could indicate death. It could also indicate a complete transcendence into a realm outside of the confines of semantics and linguistic structures. Woolf is a keen observer of relationships amongst people or, rather, the lack of boundaries between beings. Like the thread that extends between the characters of Mrs. Dalloway, the waves rock the beings within The Waves and unite them. However, Woolf achieves such fluidity in her prose that the beings lose their distinctive shapes until they are entirely freed from the confines of "identity" and "the self."
Just like the waves that dispersed Bernard's identity at the conclusion of Woolf's novel, the rain unbound my presence from the fibers of the book's pages.