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The novel To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf published in 1927 is a milestone of high modernism and experiments the stream-of-consciousness style. There are three sections in the book and the text revolves around the Ramsay family during their visit to the Isle of Skye in Scotland between 1910 1nd 1920. The fundamental theme of the novel is the universal contradiction of feminine and masculine opinions. The two leading characters in the novel represent the two contradictory themes. Mrs. Ramsey is highly sensitive and emotional in her outlook and she represents female attitude, while Mr.
Ramsey is egotistical theorist and represents male attitude with lucid exposition. Both are bound in their restricted boundary and therefore lack impartial, liberal and rational viewpoint. Lily Briscoe, a painter and house guest of the Ramsey, is Woolf’s vision of the genderless artist who typifies the perfect combination of female and male qualities. She successfully completes a painting on which she concentrates from the beginning is symbolical of female and male combination.
The first part of the novel, the window, opens with Ramsey’s in their summer house at Hebrides.
We see a new day starts with the promise of Mrs. Ramsey to take her son, James to the lighthouse but Mr. Ramsey interrupts and says Mukherjee 2 that the weather will not allow it. Small James feels very angry with his father for scorning his mother. Here the psychological factor “oedipal complex” propounded by Freud can be recollected. James hates his father while he considers his mother “ten thousand times better in every way” (chp-1).
The relationship of Mr. and Mrs. Ramsey is also emphasized in this section of the novel. They are quite the opposite to each other. Mr.
Ramsey is peculiar and unconventional in attitude while Mrs. Ramsey fights at every stage to maintain a congruent atmosphere. We watch the drama as if through a window and can hear their internal thoughts and feelings speak. The most dramatic scene of Mrs. Ramsay’s dinner party is the nucleus of the novel. The party begins with a catastrophe. The guests come late and Mr. Ramsey behaves rudely towards them (chp-xvii). The opening of the chapter shifts from one party goers’ observation to the other. Each is seen to be “remote” and like Tansley they all feel “rough and isolated and lonely”.
The connection of Lily and Mrs. Ramsey deepens in chapter xvii and she feels she acts in the same way in her mockery with Tansley. She concludes all women even those in conventional position feel the control of tradition. The section of the novel gives the impression of the time passing and the feeling of absence and death. Woolf wrote that her purpose of writing this section was “an interesting experiment (that gave) the sense of ten years passing. It’s the time when Britain got involved and finished fighting the World War I. A number of changes take place.
Mrs. Ramsey passes away, Pru dies in childbirth. Mr. Ramsey is left alone, no one is there to praise and comfort him in times of his frustration when he doubts the long term existence of his philosophical work. Woolf’s works closely observe men and their perceptions rather than concentrating on the objects of vision. There is much allusion to autobiography of Woolf throughout the novel. Mukherjee 3
Woolf, Virginia, To The Lighthouse (1927) www. googlescholar. com Reference articles and journals on To The Lighthouse.
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