Sunday, February 6, 2011
To the Lighthouse- Virginia Woolf
To the Light House by Virginia Woolf is a novel that reflects the impermanence of life and focuses more on thoughts and the inner workings of the characters rather than their actions. It follows the life of the Ramsay family and their various friends and is separated into three parts, "The Window", "Time Passes", and "The Lighthouse". The first part of the story begins with the words of the youngest child who wants desperately to go to the lighthouse which is close to their summer house. His father, however, is a realist and informs him that the weather will not permit that. Mr. Ramsay is a philosopher and spends his entire life on intellectual pursuits. Throughout the novel, Mr. Ramsay's complete focus on these pursuits and his need for his own intelligence to establish his own worth and give meaning to life contrast Mrs. Ramsay who needs her family and friends for that. Another big character that is introduced during this book is an Asian painter named Lily who paints pictures of the family. Instead of using intellect or family, Lily relies on her paintings to preserve memories and give meaning to her life. The rest of the novel focuses mainly on these three characters and their thoughts and feelings. Mr. Ramsay continues to seek knowledge but is ever plagued by the knowledge that fame and reputation are fleeting and that the will eventually fade. Mrs. Ramsay continues to focus on the family and constantly has to reassure her husband of his intelligence when he doubts himself. Lily, despite Mrs. Ramsay's efforts, refuses to marry, thereby representing a new and evolving social order, one in which a woman is not defined by her husband.
By the final part in the book, many things have happened and even more has changed. Mrs. Ramsay and two of her children are dead, leaving the rest of the family incomplete. Mrs. Ramsay's death left the family desolate and lost, but it also led them to new understanding and brought the surviving members closer together. The story ends with Lily completing a painting of Mrs. Ramsay that she started at the beginning of the novel.
1) What establishes a persons worth? Is it their intelligence, their friends, or something else?
2) Woolf's novel presents the idea that their is no such thing as objective reality and that reality is merely a collection of subjective views. DO you think that this belief is correct?