To the Lighthouse Questions and Answers
by Virginia Woolf

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In To the Lighthouse, what are the major motifs/symbols? And what are the concerns of the novel?

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The lighthouse is a major symbol that has multiple meanings: it serves as a symbol of desire, a symbol of aloneness (especially in light of the Cowper poem "The Castaway" quoted in the novel: "we perished, each alone"), and a symbol of patriarchy (phallic, remote, identified with Mr. Ramsay's will, tended by a man), among other things. Another important motif is the alphabet, with Mr. Ramsay's intellect, formidable as it is, only getting as far as the letter "Q"; he has limitations. The lines from the poem "Luriana Lulilee" by Charles Elton in which Mrs. Ramsay finds joy—"The china rose is all abloom / And buzzing with the yellow bee"—symbolize beauty in the ordinary rhythms of life. The boar's skull in the nursery, which James fears, symbolizes the threatening and the frightening, which can be...

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