Study Guide

To the Lighthouse

by Virginia Woolf

To the Lighthouse Essay - Critical Essays

Sample Essay Outlines

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.

Topic #1
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.

Outline
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

Topic #2
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.

Outline
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

Topic #3
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.

Outline
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