Virginia Woolf's first novel, The Voyage Out, details the journey of Helen Ambrose and Rachel Vinrace to Santa Marina, a coastal town in South America. Helen, Rachel's aunt, takes Rachel under her wing, hoping to educate her about life. Upon arrival, the characters meet other English tourists staying at a nearby hotel. They become companions in a foreign land and gradually develop friendships. St. John Hirst and Terence Hewet, in particular, become close to Helen and Rachel, and eventually Rachel and Hewet fall in love and are engaged. Their happiness does not last long, however, as Rachel falls ill and dies.
In this novel, Woolf plays with scope, inhabiting the minds of many different characters and perspectives. She urges the reader to imagine each character complexly instead of developing one-dimensional ideas of characters who are not as instrumental in the central plot. Woolf also explores the theme of self-knowledge as her characters struggle with interpreting their own feelings and thoughts, as well as those of others, and attempt to define what is innate versus what is the product of their expectations built by society.