To the Lighthouse

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Subjective Reality The omniscient narrator remained the standard figure in fiction through the end of the nineteenth century, providing an informed and objective account of the characters and the plot. The turn of the 20th century, however, witnessed innovations in writing .Virginia Woolf's To the Lighthouse is the triumphant product of this innovation, creating a reality that is completely constructed by the collection of the multiple subjective interiorities of its characters and presented in a stream of consciousness format. Woolf creates a fictional world in which no objective, omniscient narrator is present. Time is an essential component of e!perience and reality and, in many ways, the novel is about the passage of time. "owever, Woolf does not represent time in a traditional way#time here is a forward motion that both accelerates and collapses. $n %The Window% and %The &ighthouse,% time is conveyed only through the consciousness of the various characters, and moments last for pages. $ndeed, %The Window% ta'es place over the course of a single afternoon that is e!panded by Woolf's method, and %The &ighthouse% seems almost directly connected to the first section, despite the fact that ten years have actually elapsed. "owever, in %Time (asses,% ten years are greatly compacted into a matter of pages, and the changes in the lives of the )amsays and their home seem to flash by li'e scenes viewed from the window of a moving train. Time Time is one of the major themes of To the Lighthouse. *rs. )amsay cannot help to notice that the present moment becomes the past and she also worries endlessly about how time will change her children's lives. +he does not want ,ames and -am to grow up, for she 'nows that they will inevitably suffer. This is why she wishes to stop time for her children, allowing them to be young and carefree forever. *r. )amsay is obsessed with the future and, more specifically, the future of his career. "e desperately longs to achieve greatness as a philosopher, but is almost certain that he will not and that no one will read his boo's after he has gone. &ily .riscoe is also preoccupied with time, but her fi!ation changes shape over the course of the novel. /riginally, she shares similar concerns with *r. )amsay, wondering whether anyone will ever see her paintings. .y the final section of the novel, however, her thoughts are located more in the past and in her memories of *rs. )amsay. $t is partially the effect of these memories that pushes her forward and brings her vision into focus. Ephemerality 0ew novels capture the ephemeral nature of life as vividly as Virginia Woolf's To the Lighthouse 1ach of the main characters grasp for symbols of permanence and stability despite their understanding of the transience of e!perience. *r. )amsay and *rs. )amsay ta'e completely different approaches to life# he relies on his intellect, while she depends on her emotions. .ut they share the 'nowledge that nothing lasts forever. *rs. )amsay is very much aware of the passage of time and of mortality. +he reflects on ,ames growing into an adult, registers the world2s many dangers, and 'nows that no one, not even her husband, can protect her from them. +he wants to have precious and

memorable moments whatever time she has on earth,and also to unite her friends, family, and guests in the creation of lasting beauty. The Lighthouse &ying across the bay and meaning something different and intimately personal to each character, the lighthouse is at once inaccessible and infinitely interpretable. The lighthouse suggests that the destinations that seem surest are most unobtainable. ,ust as *r. )amsay is certain of his wife2s love for him and aims to hear her spea' words to that end in 3The Window,4 *rs. )amsay finds these words impossible to say. These failed attempts to arrive at some sort of solid ground, li'e &ily2s first try at painting *rs. )amsay or *rs. )amsay2s attempt to see (aul and *inta married, result only in more attempts. The &ighthouse can also be interpreted as *rs. )amsay's source of stability and permanence, and it is the force that defines and joins the members of the )amsay family. $t is even present in their home during the ten years that the family is not there presiding over the abandoned house. Lily’s Painting &ily2s painting represents a struggle against gender convention, represented by -harles Tansley2s statement that women can2t paint or write The painting also represents dedication to a feminine artistic vision, e!pressed through &ily2s an!iety over showing it to William .an'es. $n the end, she decides that her vision depends on balance and synthesis# how to bring together disparate things in harmony. The Sea The symbolism of the water is comple!, for it seems to represent both permanence and ephemerality. *rs. )amsay enjoys listening to the waves beating against the shore. The rhythm is steady and constant, serving as a symbol of eternity. +he learns to depend upon this sound, and it soothes her, providing a deep sense of stability 5et water also represents a destructive and erosive force. 6s *r. )amsay stands outside viewing the sea, he reflects that the piece of land beneath his feet will one day be completely worn away by the sea.6s a force that brings destruction, the sea is a powerful reminder of the impermanence and delicacy of human life. The Ramsays’ House The )amsays2 house is a stage where Woolf and her characters e!plain their beliefs and observations. $n the 3Time (asses4 section, the ravages of war and destruction and the passage of time are reflected in the condition of the house rather than in the emotional development of the characters. The house stands in for the collective consciousness of those who stay in it. 6t times the characters long to escape it, while at other times it serves as refuge. 0rom the dinner party to the journey to the lighthouse, Woolf shows the house from every angle, and its structure and contents mirror the interior of the characters who inhabit it. 6s a conclusion, the means of communicating the information about characters and events within the novel is fundamental in comprehending its central ideas, themes and symbols, giving the reader a uni7ue viewpoint and understanding of its implications.

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