Virginia Woolf considered To the Lighthouse her masterpiece. This is quite easy to consider and ponder why. If we take note of her other novels To the Lighthouse hits closest to home partly because of its highly autobiographical nature. Unlike in Mrs. Dalloway where Woolf observes us earthlings with an icy coolness, in this novel we see her involvement and her strong attachments.
Basically a novel about the pains and struggle of an English family before, during and after the First World War. To the Lighthouse is part reminiscence and the attempt to put into words the real "vision" and how this particular instance strikes our consciousness.
The Ramsays is a large family of ten and as the book opens we see them - with some of their friends - spend a quiet time along the coast of Scotland . The youngest child, James, cuts away happily pictures from a shopping catalogue. He is happy because they're to visit a nearby lighthouse the next day. His mother assures him and prepares for the things to be brought. The father interrupts: the trip to the lighthouse is cancelled. A conflict arises lasting ten years before things are fairly settled. In these ten years many events will occur. The family will remain in London , the emergence of the First World War and several family members will die. The family returns thereafter and tries to amend bitterness and search for what one has lost.
But what fascinates the reader is how Virginia Woolf managed to put this simple story altogether and express them by her own means, by her own "vision". The novel is told in three parts: The Window, Time Passes & The Lighthouse. The Window is set in an afternoon, the Ramsays languidly frolicking around their country house. At the end of that day Time Passes starts setting speed by rendering a quick recap on what happened ten years after. The third part The Lighthouse we see the Ramsays back in their country house, this time in the morning after 10 years of absence. By setting two days with ten years in between readers will be perplexed as virtually nothing happens in the story. This novel is not as simple as it seems for Woolf is more concerned with the little things that we take for granted. Small details dominate perpetually in this novel.
To each his own, To the Lighthouse isn't for everybody, yet it deserves to be read and admired. What strikes me is the novel's sense of the individual, the inner self that talks its own language and its heartbreaking longing for the past.
These are topics on which you can write a substantial analytical paper. They are designed to test your understanding of major themes and details from this novel as a whole. Following topics are outlines you can use as a starting point for writing an analytical paper.
Woolf’s development of the “stream of consciousness” technique in this novel is regarded by most critics as a tour de force. Identify several examples of this technique and discuss how a character’s inner thoughts (words and images): (a) provide an in-depth understanding of his/her character; (b) illustrate the associative intelligence of the mind in the process of understanding and creative expression.
I. Thesis Statement: Woolf uses the “stream of consciousness” technique to reveal characters in depth and to illustrate the associative intelligence of the mind.
II. Mrs. Ramsay’s “stream of consciousness”
III. Lily Briscoe’s “stream of consciousness”
IV. Mr. Ramsay’s “stream of consciousness”
V. James Ramsay’s “stream of consciousness”
VI. The “stream of consciousness” technique as a means to reveal associative mental processes
Gender is an important theme in the novel. Give examples of role definitions or expectations for men and for women in To the Lighthouse and situations where sterotypical definitions or expectations are resisted or abandoned.
I. Thesis Statement: Woolf explores various aspects of gender definition and expectation, as well as providing counter-examples of sterotyped role expectations.
II. Mrs. Ramsay as quintessential feminine personae
III. Mr. Ramsay as sterotyped Victorian male
IV. Lily Briscoe as artist who resists role expectations
V. Cam as young modern woman, with divided loyalties
In To the Lighthouse, Woolf analyzes the creative process. The evolution of Lily Briscoe’s emotional and creative abilities is the subtext of the novel. Analyze Briscoe’s artistic development and explore its implications in terms of understanding the novel.
I. Thesis Statement: Woolf illuminates the creative process through Lily Briscoe’s emotional, psychological, and artistic growth. Her growth is the subtext of the novel.
II. Lily’s artistic counsciousness during The Window
III. Lily’s place in Time Passes
IV. Lily’s artistic development in The Lighthouse
V. Significant moments in Lily’s artisic growth